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Northwest Commission Part of $600K Broadband Expansion Grant

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The Appalachian counties of Pennsylvania will see a coordinated effort to expand high-speed Internet access thanks to a $600,000 Keystone Communities grant made possible by legislative support in the Pennsylvania State House and Senate. The Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission will receive $108,125 to expand high-speed Internet access in the region. 

Jill Foys, executive director of the Northwest Commission, thanked the region’s state legislators for their support while recognizing Representatives Donna Oberlander (R-63rd District) and R. Lee James (R-64th District) who were champions for the funding.

Foys said, “COVID-19 has shined a light on the need for Internet access. The pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives from access to education and health care to continuity of work and staying connected to friends and loved ones. Connectivity isn’t an indulgence, it’s a necessity.”

The Keystone Communities grant was awarded to the seven Local Development Districts (LDDs) that serve the Commonwealth’s 52 Appalachian counties. The investment will match an additional $600,000 Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) broadband grant supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) awarded to the LDDs to undertake broadband expansion throughout the region. Targeted areas for development with these funds include Clarion, Erie, Mercer and Venango Counties. 

The Northwest Commission has been working with their member counties to identify unserved and underserved areas and any vertical assets that exist to successfully develop fixed wireless projects.  Foys said, “Our county commissioners and Erie’s County executive are all actively involved in broadband development. They are collaborating to maximize efforts and efficiencies knowing that the internet doesn’t recognize boundaries of municipalities, counties or even states.”

Foys continued, “Right now there are a variety of funding sources for the implementation of broadband.  The challenge is understanding and meeting the eligibility and fiscal requirements.  We know that we will never achieve 100-percent coverage in our region; however, we will continue to work with our public and private partners and local, county and state elected officials to bring connectivity to as many residents of our eight counties as possible.”

For more information, visit northwestpa.org.