Westmoreland among 8 counties in $100K study of broadband internet service | TribLIVE.com

Westmoreland among 8 counties in $100K study of broadband internet service

Rich Cholodofsky

Westmoreland County will participate in a study expected to clarify the status of local broadband internet service and what might be needed to improve coverage in the region.

The Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission was awarded a $50,000 grant to map out broadband needs in Westmoreland along with Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties.

The grant will be augmented with a local match that requires each participating county to pay an additional $6,250 for the study that is expected to cost $100,000.

“This is an opportunity to identify where we are in terms of broadband. Right now, we can’t address that until we understand what we have,” said Brian Lawrence, deputy director of planning for Westmoreland County.

Officials said there is no real database or detailed information to show exactly where broadband internet service is available to residents and where coverage is lacking. Lawrence said planners suspect there are many areas throughout the region and in Westmoreland County where high speed internet service is not available and the identification of specific locations is more guess work than established fact.

The study, expected to be completed by July, will identify areas without service as well as underserved communities.

It also will assess where the service is now provided, the infrastructure in place and cost estimates to establish upgraded and additional service.

“A study like this helps lay the foundation for broadband that supports our senior population through the delivery of telehealth,” said Westmoreland County Commissioners Chairwoman Gina Cerilli.

Enhancing broadband service was identified in the county’s recently completed comprehensive plan to help bring jobs and population to Westmoreland County, officials said.

“Broadband internet service isn’t a luxury anymore. It’s a basic quality of life factor for attracting and retaining our workforce. We need this study to help us make informed decisions,” Commissioner Ted Kopas said.

Officials said the study findings will help county leaders identify new funding sources to pay for upgraded service.

“We learned in Reimagining Our Westmoreland that, for businesses, broadband is an essential infrastructure for tomorrow’s jobs. This is especially true for Industry 4.0 and the growing digital economy,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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