Last December, Greene County completed its broadband improvements in Bobtown, Carmichaels, Greensboro, Jefferson, Mount Morris and Waynesburg. According to Mike Belding, Greene County Commissioner, the expansion has brought improved internet to homes in these areas.
“The investment provides an opportunity for increased speed and reliability to 7,313 homes and businesses and included upgraded hardware and the installation of 171 miles of fiber. This project was completed at the end of December, 2020 in accordance with the CARES Act Funding guidance,” he said. “The industry provider continues to connect new or upgraded service to houses and businesses with improved speed and reliability of broadband service.”
Now, the county is working to acquire more funding to further improve access.
“We are pursuing additional funding and with industry partners intend to continue increasing access and speed of broadband to underserved and unserved areas within Greene County,” Belding said. “We are currently seeking additional funding through an Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative. This is a $2.5 million grant request with a proposal due date of April 16, 2021.”
As stated on its website, the ARC is committed to strengthening the economy throughout Appalachia. Specifically, the ARC’s POWER initiative is intended to help areas that “have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.”
According to the Power Initiative overview, up to one third of the ARC’s allotted funds for the POWER initiative can be used for broadband projects. Applicants must show that the existing internet service is insufficient and notify existing internet providers of the intent to install broadband.
With this grant in mind, the county is currently “seeking a qualified professional internet service provider with the capacity and ability to expand broadband services in the county as identified in the Broadband Service Expansion for Southern Greene County Request for Proposal (RFP) dated for opening March 24, 2021,” as stated in a press release. However, the county has to receive funding before it can accept a proposal.
“All county project work has been completed until we obtain more funding,” Belding said. “Once we acquire more funding, we’ll contract with a provider, supervise installation of the project and pay invoices as the work is completed.”
At a minimum, the improved infrastructure from the update will provide internet access with a minimum 25 mbps download speed and 3 mbps upload speed, as stated on the official request. Although the proposals can be made for any area in the county that is currently underserved, the county is prioritizing Aleppo Township, Springhill Township, Freeport Township, Jackson Township, Gilmore Township, Wayne Township, Whiteley Township, Perry Township, Dunkard Township, Greene Township, Monongahela Township (Robena Site) and Greensboro Borough.
So far, the upgrades have gone well, according to Belding.
“We have not encountered any significant problems.,” he said. “Everyone involved in the project from the outcome of the feasibility study through funding allocation to final service installation are extremely pleased with the outcome.”