Adams County Commissioners are moving forward with a multi-county broadband feasibility study.
Commissioners on Wednesday accepted an offer from Virginia-based Design Nine Inc. to carry out the broadband feasibility study. The cost must not exceed $100,995. The cost will be halved with Franklin County, which is partnering with Adams for the study.
County officials said Design Nine, which has more than 25 years of broadband experience and has recently worked with 14 Pennsylvania counties on similar initiatives, “submitted the lowest qualified bid on three proposals in total”.
The county plans to partner with neighboring Franklin County to bring affordable high-speed internet to communities in the South Central region, officials said.
“The study will assess the current state of high-speed broadband infrastructure in Adams and Franklin counties and outline a plan for counties to expand broadband to underserved areas,” said Molly Mudd. , Adams County attorney, noting that it should take four to five. months to complete.
Adams County Commissioner’s Chairman Randy Phiel said Upper Adams, the Buchanan Valley and Mount Carmel near Fairfield are the county’s most underserved areas when it comes to broadband.
The study will identify the exact areas of the county that lack services, County Executive Steve Nevada said.
The county hopes to increase efficiency and improve broadband for all county residents, noting that this not only impacts educational uses in the home, but also affects the tourism and agriculture industries. , Phiel said.
According to Phiel, new technical farming equipment has increased the use of technology in farming in the current climate.
“If you’re an agricultural business in Upper Adams and you don’t have broadband, it impacts your business. Not having broadband in today’s world impacts your quality of life, your business and your economic opportunity for the county,” Phiel said.
Adams County Commissioner’s Vice Chairman Jim Martin said businesses have already left the county due to the lack of broadband.
“It will bring other businesses into the county,” Phiel said. “Broadband is essential for economic development.”
When commissioners received five bids for the broadband feasibility study in May, Cumberland County decided to back out of the proposal, which called for a change in scope. The commissioners later rejected all five bids after Cumberland County no longer wished to participate.
“The reason for rejecting the proposals is that Cumberland County no longer wishes to participate in the Broadband Feasibility Study and as a result the scope of the project has changed significantly,” Mudd previously said.
However, the county reviewed some of the initial offers and contacted Franklin County.
Cumberland County made the decision to withdraw from the broadband study due to an interest in verifying funding opportunities from the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, according to Commissioner Marty Qually.
The authority, signed into law on Dec. 22, 2021, is responsible for creating a statewide broadband plan and allocating federal and state funds to broadband expansion projects in unserved areas and underserved areas of the state, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. website.
If grant funding does not materialize, the study is an eligible use of the $19 million the county received from the American Rescue Plan Act, Qually said.
In November, the county established a broadband task force. The task force will consist of eight members from specific categories: Adams County Council of Governments, K-12 Education, Post-Secondary Education, Representative of Underserved Population, Primary Employer, Community Member in general, preferably a small home-based business, health care, agricultural industry, tourism industry and a county commissioner.
The task force has been put on hold until the study is complete, but Qually said it will return this fall.