Northwest Commission Gets Grant To Study Broadband Expansion

jill foysOIL CITY, Pa. (EYT) — The Northwest PA Regional Planning and Development Commission in Oil City recently received a $100,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for technical assistance to develop a feasibility study for broadband access in the Northwest Pennsylvania region.

(Jill Foys, Executive Director Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission)

It is one of just six awarded in Pennsylvania.

The Northwest PA Broadband Assessment project will include capacity building among regional partners, identify gaps in high-speed internet infrastructure, and recommend solutions to improve internet connectivity among residents and local business.

State sources will provide an additional $86,047 to support the project.

jill foys

“Comprehensive broadband deployment to rural areas affords competitive opportunities in education and entrepreneurship,” said Jill Foys, Executive Director Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission. “Advanced connectivity allows for access to telemedicine and possibilities for all residents of our eight county region to endeavor in enrichment learning from worldwide resources.”

In the grant proposal, written by Franklin native Meghan Keely, the importance of this plan is clear.

“Given the large potential impact broadband access may have on the economic development and revitalization of Northwest Pennsylvania this proposed assessment would open the doors to various possibilities for diversifying the regional economy in efforts to excel after the devastating effects of the coal industry downfall.

“The technical assistance would ensure community sustainability and competitiveness in the global marketplace via comprehensive planning for broadband deployment. Regional sustainability requires connectivity at speeds necessary for businesses and entrepreneurs to engage and compete.

“Providing residential users with universal access at high speeds with competitive prices will produce a more desirable and motivated region.

Regional PREP partners view broadband telecommunications infrastructure as an essential public utility in the same regard as public water and sewer service.

“This technical assistance would enable a level playing field, in order to compete with larger urban regions for economic development and expanded social opportunities through the availability of affordable high-speed internet service in the Northwest Pennsylvania region.

“The technical assistance will provide the rational and viability to future broadband projects that will lead to enhanced educational opportunities, improved employment services, enhanced economic development opportunities and improved quality of life. There is also potential for a revenue source for any future publicly owned networks.”

The Northwest Commission will advertise a Request for Proposal and select a consulting service to prepare the broadband assessment/study. This process is estimated to take 4-6 weeks.

The estimated time-frame for the Regional Study according to a quote from Revitalization Writing Services is eight months.

The timeline for completion of study is subject to change based upon the announcement dates for funding agencies.

The outlined schedule will be provided by the consultant upon initialization of study/assessment.

The Appalachian Regional Commission (www.arc.gov) is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region.

ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.


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