June 11, 2021 — The Bedford County Commissioners in partnership with Alleghenies Broadband, Inc. (ABI) have officially launched their countywide broadband initiative, Speed Zone. The effort includes the expansion of internet services to unserved and underserved areas throughout Bedford County and will follow a fluid Master Plan that identifies projects through 2023.
Commissioners Dallara, Baughman and Frederick have made household and business access to high-speed internet a top priority. In collaboration with ABI, the commissioners have made a commitment to do whatever is necessary to make reliable countywide broadband a reality.
Alleghenies Broadband, Inc. (ABI) is a non-profit corporation with a mission of supporting the development of broadband infrastructure to ensure residents and businesses in the region have access to reliable, high-speed internet. ABI works to enhance infrastructure through public-private partnerships to deliver reliable broadband service to rural areas that currently lack connectivity. Larry Myers and Rachel Papuga, county residents, represent Bedford County on the ABI Board of Directors.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for widespread reliable broadband. The lack of accessibility made remote education, work, and health care difficult, and sometimes impossible. With the plethora of funding resources currently available to assist with rural broadband it is imperative to capitalize on the opportunities to target investments wisely and to maximize the amount of state and federal subsidies secured for projects in Bedford County. Recently, a $1.5M grant proposal was submitted to the Appalachian Regional Commission for the construction of additional telecommunications towers in the southeastern part of the county to support the expansion of wireless internet and cellular services.
The ambitious Master Plan outlines a comprehensive approach to provide coverage to unserved and underserved areas of the county. Fixed wireless, fiber, and new emerging technologies will be utilized to ensure county residents and businesses have the access they need. The first phase of deployments began in 2020 using Federal Cares Act funds to add fixed wireless broadband equipment on existing 911 towers. This effort included a partnership with Crowsnest Broadband, a wireless internet service company operating in the county.
A new solicitation for proposals is currently being circulated by ABI, in collaboration with Bedford and other counties in the region to begin work on the next phase of the Master Plan. The next phase is designed as a public-private partnership where applicants awarded funding through the Request for Proposals will receive ongoing support and services from ABI, including grant monitoring and assistance with marketing and outreach to maximize the impact of the county’s investments.