Bedford County launches county-wide broadband initiative

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BEDFORD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — A broadband initiative in Bedford County has officially launched to expand internet services to unserved and underserved areas throughout the county.

The broadband initiative, called “Speed Zone” was launched by the Bedford County Commissioners in partnership with Alleghenies Broadband, Inc. (ABI). Speed Zone will follow a “fluid, master plan” that will identify projects through 2023 that include fixed wireless, fiber and new emerging technologies.

The first phase of the development started in 2020 through federal CARES Act funding; wireless broadband equipment on existing 911 towers were fixed. In addition, a $1.5 million grant proposal was submitted to the Appalachian Regional Commission for the construction of additional telecommunications towers in the southern part of Bedford County.

According to the Bedford County Commissioners Office, a new solicitation for proposals is currently being circulated by ABI to begin work on the next phase of the master plan. The next phase encompasses a public-private partnership where applicants who are awarded funding through the request for proposals will receive ongoing support and services from ABI, which will include grant monitoring and assisting with marketing and outreach.

Eligible projects require the delivery of minimum speeds of 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload. If it is impractical to meet those speeds due to geography, financial costs, etc. then speeds must meet 100 Mbps for download and at least 20 Mbps for upload speed. This must be scalable to 100 upload and 100 download, according to the commissioners’ office.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for widespread reliable broadband,” the Bedford County Commissioners said in a news release. “The lack of accessibility made remote education, work, and health care difficult, and sometimes impossible. With the plethora of funding resources currently available to assist with rural broadband, it is imperative to capitalize on the opportunities to target investments wisely and to maximize the amount of state and federal subsidies secured for projects in Bedford County.”

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