Tri-County broadband project to begin following award of $1.5 million grant
Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative has been approved for a $1.5 million state grant to construct 103 miles of above-ground fiber that will expand access to broadband internet service to 1,400 consumers in Potter County.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced the award Aug. 7, and representatives of the Governor’s Office, Potter County and Tri-County hosted a joint press conference in Coudersport that same day to outline the cooperative’s proposed fiber-to-the-home project in Potter County.
The project will make broadband internet service available to 830 residential, 540 seasonal, and 13 commercial customers in townships surrounding Coudersport.
Funding for the project will come through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project program, a grant program administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects.
The construction of the fiber is expected to create 27 jobs, with an additional four full-time jobs created permanently as a direct result of this project.
“Access to broadband opens the lines of communication in many ways,” Gov. Wolf said. “By bringing faster internet service to rural Pennsylvania, we are supporting current residents and existing industry and doing a lot to attract people and businesses to the region.”
Craig Eccher, president and CEO of Tri-County Rural Electric, notes the project is just the first phase of a long-term effort to boost internet speeds throughout the cooperative’s service area.
“Our goal is to bring broadband to rural communities just like we brought electricity to them back in the 1930s,” Eccher said. “The entire initiative is a six-year project with 2,700 miles of fiber delivering high-speed internet to our members. We are excited to get started on phase one.”
He said requests for proposals for the project will be issued this week, and he expects fiber construction to begin in 2019.
“We are greatly appreciative of Gov. Wolf’s support for this project, as well as all of the help we received from Sen. Joe Scarnati, Sen. Gene Yaw, Rep. Martin Causer and Rep. Clint Owlett,” he added.
Currently, more than 800,000 Pennsylvanians lack access to robust, reliable, high-speed internet, hindering healthcare, education, and business development opportunities, all items critical to economic development. Over 520,000 of those residents without access reside in rural areas. This project aligns with Gov. Wolf’s Broadband Initiative, a dedicated effort to provide high-speed internet access to every household and business in Pennsylvania that was launched earlier this year.
Area legislators applauded the release of $1.5 million in state funds for Tri-County’s rural broadband expansion project.
“Quality broadband service is vital to the livelihood of the rural communities we represent, affecting our local economy, educational opportunities and access to health care,” Scarnati said. “This is an important and much-needed investment in our future.”
“I commend Tri-County Rural Electric officials for their initiative in addressing the need for broadband service in our communities,” Causer said. “In today’s world, quality internet access is becoming just as important as the electric service the cooperatives made possible decades ago. This is great news for our region.”
“I want to thank the governor for releasing this funding for the Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative Fiber to Home project,” said Owlett. “I was happy to advocate for this injection of funds, which will help improve broadband access for the region. This is a total game changer and just the first step in increasing service to the entire Northern Tier.”
With headquarters in Mansfield, Pa., Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative has served the residents of northcentral Pennsylvania since 1937. Today the cooperative provides electricity to over 16,600 members in Tioga, Potter, Bradford, Lycoming, Clinton, McKean and Cameron counties.
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