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Cumberland, Md., and County School Board Collaborate on High-Speed Broadband

Funding for the project will primarily come through the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal grant program that helps communities become more economically competitive.

(TNS) — The Allegany County Board of Education and the city of Cumberland have joined together to develop plans to bring high-capacity fiber-optic lines into downtown.

“The board of education contacted us and invited us to be a partner,” said Shawn Hershberger, economic development coordinator for the city.

The plan grew from the school board’s desire to extend fiber to their Maintenance and Facilities Warehouse on Market Street along Wills Creek between Mechanic and Cumberland streets. The board’s warehouse contains its food service operation and the facilities and maintenance departments.

With fiber lines coming to Mechanic Street, city officials saw an opportunity to continue the line into the downtown.

“We were able to join with their (the school board’s) idea and what they were doing. It will provide high-speed and high-bandwidth fiber to downtown Cumberland,” said Hershberger.

With a cost estimated at $220,000, funding for the project will primarily come through the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal grant program that helps communities become more economically competitive.

The plans calls for ARC to pay 50 percent of the cost with the school board and the city each paying 25 percent. The ARC still has fiscal 2015 funds available for the project.

“It will expand upon the solid resources we already have and make us more competitive for future economic development projects,” said Hershberger.

With all 23 schools in the county public school system already with fiber optics, the board’s warehouse will be the last public school facility to receive high-capacity fiber.

Nil Grove, chief information technology officer for the school board, sees the addition of 96-count fiber-optic line to the warehouse and downtown a big step forward.

“Providing additional options for high-speed Internet service in Allegany County can only be a positive move for economic development and growth. The downtown area specifically will benefit from competitive pricing available to private entities with reliable and redundant high-speed service,” said Grove.

The fiber-optic line will run from the school board Central Office on Washington Street down Johnson Street to the board’s warehouse and then extend into downtown along Mechanic Street and Queen City Drive.

Once the line is installed, any adjacent businesses should be able to access the lines from there.

The city’s description of the project described the service this way:

“The fiber will be provided to enlarge the city footprint bringing laterals to city public service buildings as well as providing connectivity (splice points) for Internet service providers.”

“The last leg of service would be the responsibility of either the service provider or the business owner like a utility service,” said Grove.

Grove said costs to access the fiber would have to be obtained through the service provider.

Skyline Technology Solutions, the fiber-optics company that the school board has been under contract with, will install the new downtown lines. Internet service providers will vie for the opportunity to provide connectivity to customers.

“It helps us toward the jobs we are trying to compete for and helps us keep the jobs we have here now,” said Hershberger.

©2015 the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.