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HomeLifestyle NewsLifestyle 2Washington County is pursuing the fourth phase of the broadband expansion project

Washington County is pursuing the fourth phase of the broadband expansion project

Washington County is moving forward with the next phase of its broadband expansion project, which could prove to be the most difficult and complex one of the four stages officials have pursued over the past two years. 

While the other phases have helped install high-speed internet in large chunks in unserved and underserved areas in the county, this project is more splintered, with the county hoping to extend broadband to 1,084 homes in nearly 200 locations in primarily rural areas.

“John Timney, executive director of the Washington County Authority tasked with undertaking the broadband project, said each phase has served a different purpose since they began in early 2022. The initial pilot phase was to”validate the process,” while the second involved multiple vendors and larger construction projects, with the third one ramping up to 6,000 new targets for high-speed internet.”John Timney, executive director of the Washington County Authority tasked with undertaking the broadband project, said each phase has served a different purpose since they began in early 2022. The initial pilot phase was to “validate the process,” while the second involved multiple vendors and larger construction projects, with the third one ramping up to 6,000 new targets for high-speed internet.

Those prior phases averaged 600 homes per grouping, but this most recent one will be closer to six houses, Timney said.

“This fourth phase deviates from the previous ones in that it entails a larger number of locations but a reduced number of targets, making this phase more intricate and demanding,” Timney said.”In short, it is house-by-house vs. township-by-township.“This fourth phase deviates from the previous ones in that it entails a larger number of locations but a reduced number of targets, making this phase more intricate and demanding,” Timney said. “In short, it is house-by-house vs. township-by-township.”

The county commissioners agreed to move forward with the phase when they approved the proposal or RFP requests at their November 16 meeting and advertised the instructions for bidding on Friday. The bids must be submitted by March 12 and will be opened at a later date and possibly awarded.

The cost of the project won’t be known until bids are received. County officials have used American Rescue Plan Act stimulus money to pay for past phases. While they are unlikely to use those federal funds for this portion, they are already eyeing grants to help pay for construction. 

“Washington County has been a leader in Pennsylvania with our broadband initiative and commitment,” commission Chairwoman Diana Irey Vaughan said. “We’ve been receiving accolades on all levels, so I expect us to receive grant money.”

“She added that the telecommunication companies that have submitted bids through the other phases have also absorbed some of the costs associated with construction.”She added that the telecommunication companies that have submitted bids through the other phases have also absorbed some of the costs associated with construction.

“We’ve been fortunate because the providers have stepped up and offered coverage because of our commitment,” “he said. “So that’s been impressive, as well.”

“Irey Vaughan, who pushed the broadband expansion projects after seeing the importance of high-speed internet during the COVID-19 pandemic, is retiring from the board at the end of the year, so she won’t be a commissioner when bids are opened and awarded next year. However, the two other incumbent commissioners, Nick Sherman and Larry Maggi, along with incoming commissioner Electra Janis, all expressed support for the project’s south phase in a joint press release. 

“As we enter the fourth phase of our rural broadband initiative, we recognize the challenges that lie ahead,” Sherman said in the statement. “This phase will be more demanding than the previous three, but we are committed to ensuring that every Washington County resident has access to reliable and affordable broadband services.”

“By expanding our efforts to reach smaller, more rural areas, we are ensuring that no one is left behind in the digital age,” Maggi added. “This fourth phase will be a significant step forward in our journey to connect Washington County. “By expanding our efforts to reach smaller, more rural areas, we are ensuring that no one is left behind in the digital age,” Maggi added. “This fourth phase will be a significant step forward in our journey to connect Washington County.”

“The fourth phase of the rural broadband project signifies our dedication to creating equal opportunities for all residents of Washington County,” Janis said. “We are eager to review the proposals and work towards enhancing the digital landscape of our communities.

“Irey Vaughan said she was pleased that the new board is eager to continue pushing the broadband expansion project.

“This final phase will solidify our commitment to providing reliable internet access to all corners of our county,” Irey Vaughan said.

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