Washington County (PA) to expand internet connections to 5,000 homes, schools, businesses

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Officials from Washington County (PA) are pressing ahead with an ambitious internet access expansion plan by earmarking up to $50 million to connect 5,000 homes, schools, and businesses. The project, which is the latest phase of a plan to connect all of the county, will unfold over six to nine months, leverage additional capital funds from vendors, and target poorly served areas for service, including the eight municipalities comprising the McGuffey School District, which is the most underserved school system in the county. Altogether, 700 miles of fiber optic cable will be strung in the latest phase, with at least 15 vendors receiving requests for proposals. At McGuffey School District, where nearly half the student body is economically disadvantaged and up to 80% of some communities are without an internet connection, Superintendent Andrew Oberg called broadband access “one of our generation’s great civil rights issue, the haves and have nots.” McGuffey school buses and vans, equipped with mobile internet hot spots, have parked at libraries, parks, and other public areas to allow residents to sign onto the internet for school work, Superintendent Oberg said. Of the total estimated $50 million for the Washington County project, $30 million has been allocated from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding that the county has received. Washington County is also seeking funding through the newly formed Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, which will be a broker in distributing the state’s share of $42.45 billion from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program.

Washington County to expand internet connections to 5,000 homes, schools, businesses