February 15th, 2012 by WCBC Radio
Project will help Increase Broadband Availability throughout County. In September of 2011, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced the approval of a grant in the amount of $50,000 to the Board of Education which will help fund a Broadband Feasibility Study. The study, which is underway, will help to determine how to leverage a new 37-mile fiber optic cable system running through Allegany County in order to increase broadband availability to residents. Currently, more than 12% of Allegany County residents do not have access to a terrestrial broadband provider, and another 60% have access to only one broadband provider. Incumbent carriers have not invested enough financial resources to build additional capacity, and the lack of robust broadband access impacts the community in education, economic development, and community support services. The contract for the Broadband Feasibility Study was awarded to Communications Engineering and Analysis for the Public Interest (CTC). This firm is also currently conducting a similar study in Garrett County. At the February work session of the Board of Education, President of CTC, Joanne Hovis, provided school board members with an overview of their work on the project to date. Within the next several weeks, CTC will begin distributing a residential and business stakeholder survey on behalf of Allegany County Public Schools, Allegany County, and the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce to determine the existing status and use of broadband in Allegany County. Such questions being asked of residents include access to and use of communications services including the internet, telephone, and television. The survey is designed to help Allegany County planners understand residents’ current use of communications services and their potential future needs. The results of the survey will help develop strategies that lead to improved consumer choice for internet and data services, economic development, and job creation within Allegany County. The firm has also been charged with exploring private sector partnerships and methods to facilitate private sector broadband, designing broadband network alternatives, and developing business plan alternatives.