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Pennsylvania County Nets $2.5M in Federal Grants for Broadband

The millions in grants will allow the county to deploy broadband infrastructure and “bring the county up to the standards that its residents deserve,” U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler said when endorsing the project.

(TNS) — A jolt to southwestern Pennsylvania’s internet connectivity will come soon with $2.5 million of federal funding to Greene County, lawmakers said Thursday.

The millions in grant money will allow the county to deploy broadband infrastructure and “bring the county up to the standards that its residents deserve,” U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Peters, said when he endorsed the project to federal grant writers.

The county’s commissioners applauded the funding, which will come from a program by the Appalachian Regional Commission that invests in communities that were impacted by the decline of coal mining and related industries.

“In our continual search for funding to increase service, reliability, and speed of our broadband capabilities, this is the next step, and we are grateful for this opportunity,” Commissioner Betsy McClure said in a statement. “This project is ready to start and builds on our previous successful investment in broadband, we were just awaiting the funding.”

Mr. Reschenthaler, whose district includes all of Greene County, wrote to the program’s co-chair in April and said the funding would allow the county to “construct fiber optic cable to support broadband connectivity in the southern part of the county.”

“This will be achieved through the construction of both aerial and buried lines, much-needed infrastructure as the county continues to face the challenge of an increased number of citizens forced to telework or attend virtual classes with limited or no access to a reliable broadband connection,” Mr. Reschenthaler’s letter read.

County commissioners had been using a 2020 study to make targeted investments in underserved and unserved areas, Commissioner Mike Belding said — and this helps. They recently applied for nearly $8 million in National Telecommunications and Information Administration funding, he added.

“Funding is allocated for broadband or other infrastructure improvements and will be spent elsewhere if not in Greene County,” Mr. Belding said, noting the competitive nature of these grant programs.

Mr. Reschenthaler said reliable internet is vital, and that rural communities are often left out. It’s important to close the digital divide, he added.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s office said this round of Appalachian Regional Commission funding totals $8.2 million across nine entities in Pennsylvania.

© 2021 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.