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Clarion County Awarded Over $1 Million for Broadband Services to Unserved and Underserved Areas

Thursday, September 16, 2021 @ 09:09 PM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

Commissioners May 2021CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion County was awarded $1,096,125.00 by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) on Thursday to design, build, and launch fixed wireless broadband services to unserved and underserved areas in the county.

The award is part of a nearly $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.

Clarion County Commissioners Ted Tharan, Wayne Brosius, and Ed Heasley issued a press release about the award late Thursday afternoon. They are supporting the deployment of broadband infrastructure that will provide affordable, equitable broadband access — defined as service of at least 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload — to residents, businesses, and anchor institutions.

“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin.

“Many of the projects we announced today (Thursday) will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure—including broadband access. These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.”

The Clarion County Commissioners, Clarion County Economic Development Corporation, and Northwest Commission will be requesting proposals for a public‐private partnership to fill broadband gaps in certain areas of the county. The county wants defined projects that will provide broadband service to its underserved areas utilizing County 9-1-1 towers to provide fixed wireless broadband.

Clarion County is proposing a fixed wireless broadband solution to provide services to unserved and underserved areas in the County. The Clarion County Connected broadband project will use a combination of existing 9-1-1 towers and new pole/tower locations to provide services. The towers will be connected through Point-to-Point (PTP) microwave connection with several towers having Fiber backhaul to provide a long-haul internet connection.

Additionally, Clarion County Connected will provide the last mile internet service to end-users (e.g., businesses, schools, households, federal opportunity zones, etc.) through a direct wireless connection.

To connect the towers, PTP links will be used for sites. The last-mile connection would utilize Point to Multipoint (PTMP) technology. The PTP and PTMP equipment would be part of a tower base station mounted at the top of the tower/pole and connected via hardwire to the tower’s network equipment at the base. Each tower location would have rack-mounted network equipment such as routers, switches, Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) batteries, and ancillary equipment to complete a system network.

End-user locations would have Customer Premise Equipment (CPE), which is a wireless radio module to establish connectivity to the tower-mounted sectors. The CPE mounted on the end-user structure in combination with a network router will complete the connectivity to provide high-speed internet service. Basic internet speeds of a minimum 25mbps down and 3mbps up will be provided with higher speeds available.

Since POWER launched in 2015, ARC has invested more than $287.8 million in 362 projects across 353 coal-impacted counties. The nearly $46.4 million awarded on Thursday is projected to create/retain over 9,187 jobs, attract nearly $519.5 million in leveraged private investments, and be matched by $59.2 million in additional public and private funds across the Region.

ARC is working with Chamberlin/Dunn LLC, a third-party research firm, to closely monitor, analyze, and evaluate these investments. A new report, published on Thursday in conjunction with the announcement, found that projects funded through POWER grants met or exceeded targets for jobs retained and/or created, businesses created, workers trained, and revenues increased. Chamberlin/Dunn is continuing to monitor POWER investments and make recommendations to ARC for ongoing programmatic efficiencies.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region.

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