Washington County Partners With Comcast to Provide Broadband to 2,600 Unserved Locations for $27.8M
Largest Broadband Award to Date, Washington County Completes Third Phase and Positions Itself for Further Funding Initiatives (e.g., CPF, BEAD, ARC POWER, etc.) to Expand Universal Access
WASHINGTON, Pa., July 20, 2023 (Newswire.com) - Washington County has approved the final three projects in Phase III of the Washington County Broadband Program. This $27.8M award, the largest to date, will provide broadband access to 2,600 previously unserved locations in East Finley Twp., Donegal Twp., and areas around 10 Mile Creek. The County will use $18.8M from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funding, along with other allocated broadband funds while Comcast, the winning bidder, will fund the remainder, including any project overages.
The County has undertaken its largest program ever, with a total cost of $60.5M targeting 7,500 unserved locations countywide. Since January 2021, the Board of Commissioners has allocated $30M from the County's ARPA Funds for broadband initiatives. With this recent award, the County's projects now amount to $35.8M, with an additional $24.7M contributed by the five awarded Internet service providers (ISPs) in engineering, design, permitting, and fiber construction.
Diana Irey Vaughan, Chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, has been a driving force behind the program and expressed her excitement for its completion, stating, "It will positively impact many lives and foster an equitable future for all residents."
The program has selected five ISPs, including Hickory Telephone, DQE Communications, Verizon, Kinetic by Windstream, and Comcast, from a pool of 67 proposals submitted over 18 months. These ISPs have collectively invested $24.7M into the program, benefiting rural schools, senior telemedicine, small businesses, manufacturing, and agricultural businesses.
"This is an important milestone and one which we know has been made possible through our strong partnership with the Commission and Washington County Authority," said Ray Roundtree, Senior Vice President of Comcast's Keystone Region.
John Timney, Executive Director of the Washington County Authority overseeing the broadband project, highlighted the progress made so far and acknowledged the remaining work ahead, comparing it to a nine-inning game where they are currently in the third inning.
Larry Maggi, Vice Chair of the Board of Commissioners, emphasized the scale of the project, "It involves installing 840 miles of newly constructed broadband fiber throughout rural neighborhoods in the county, approximately the same distance from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Jacksonville, Florida, but circumnavigating through Washington County."
Although there is a $5.8M shortfall from the initial $30M allocation, the county remains committed to completing the project and is exploring additional funding opportunities from the Pennsylvania Capital Projects Fund (CPF) program, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER Initiative and Broadband Expansion and Deployment (BEAD) programs.
Townships include: Amwell Twp., Blaine Twp., Buffalo Twp., Cecil Twp., Chartiers Twp., Donegal Twp., East Finley Twp., Hopewell Twp., Marianna Boro, Morris Twp., Mt Pleasant Twp., Robinson Twp., South Franklin Twp., and West Bethlehem Twp.
Source: Washington County Authority