Westmoreland broadband task force announces plan for increased internet access

Four internet access improvement projects are planned for three townships in Westmoreland County, task force members said Thursday.

During a presentation at Ligonier Valley High School, county leaders said Ligonier, Fairfield and Derry townships will be seeing upgrades in their broadband service.

“Over the past six months, the task force and the county staff have been working with Michael Baker International Group to develop and deliver a feasibility report of an existing internet infrastructure and service conditions,” said county planning director Jason Rigone. “The report establishes specific goals for the next five years. We want to ensure that everyone has access to adequate internet service.”

Throughout the presentation, Rigone emphasized the importance of celebrating technology and the availability of service.

Commissioner Gina Cerilli Thrasher said internet access is crucial.

“We are committed to making broadband available to unserved areas and improving access for critical daily needs like paying bills, telehealth appointments, shopping, job searches and applications, education and so much more,” Thrasher said.

The report revealed that 29% of more than 2,500 participants had unreliable or “very unreliable” internet access, and 3,506 locations, including 790 businesses, within the county were found to have poor internet connectivity.

In the feasibility study, if an area had an internet speed less than 25 megabits per second download speed, and 3 Mbps upload, they were considered unserviced.

“We wanted to find the unserviced locations, the gaps or holes within the county that lack internet access,” said David Price, project manager at Michael Baker International. “As of today, the findings from the report have identified 145 Connectivity Opportunity Areas (new service areas) across the county, consisting of the 3,506 locations.”

Early action project sites were determined through an evaluation that prioritized areas in the greatest need of broadband improvement. Derry Township will have two early action projects. Ligonier and Fairfield townships will each have one. According to Price, the four projects are planned to connect more than 400 locations.

The first step of each project will be to verify the chosen locations with local providers, followed by a request for proposals to carry out the projects.

“Closing the gap is essential, as internet access is necessary to participate in today’s society, and these projects will strengthen the county’s economy and quality of life,” Thrasher said.

Haley Daugherty is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Haley at 724-850-1203 or hdaugherty@triblive.com.


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