CUMBERLAND — Allegany County is establishing a cost-sharing program to help residents in remote areas obtain broadband internet service.
News of the program was disclosed at Thursday’s meeting of the Allegany County Board of Commissioners. The cost of the broadband access effort will be covered by federal dollars through the American Rescue Plan Act. Allegany County received nearly $14 million in ARPA funding.
At the meeting, the commissioners voted to allocate $6 million of ARPA funding to various programs and agencies. Of that allocation, $500,000 is being made available to internet service provider companies who can run last-mile broadband fiber to various remote neighborhoods. An additional $50,000 will be available for households to apply for financial assistance to complete the connection to their homes. To help offset the cost to homeowners, the county will pay half the cost for wiring the home for broadband internet.
Jake Shade, commission president, said the county is making broadband access a priority.
“The total is $550,000 with the $50,000 made available directly to residents,” said Shade. “So if you have a big bill basically, or big cost, to run Comcast, or whoever the provider is to your house, we will pay half the cost. This is a pilot program. This is the first time we have ever done this before because we are trying to connect that last mile. So that will be $50,000 of it. That will be available for individual residents as well as neighbors and the county will cover half the cost.”
Shade said he is “excited” about the possibilities of providing internet to as many people as possible.
“We think we can really get some good coverage out of this,” he said. “The other $500,000 will be ISP (internet service) providers which they can apply for (funding). They will come to us and say, ‘We can expand service to this many households and there will be a grant as long as they can do that.’ We think it will be good moving forward. We have covered the main areas with broadband and now it’s the bits and pieces to finish to move forward.”
“We will start to roll this out in the next couple weeks and we will put an announcement out on the website and do a press release as far as the contact information and where to apply,” said Jason Bennett, county administrator.
Additional ARPA funding allocations include $4.7 million to the county’s department of public works to complete various water and sewer projects. The list of numerous projects includes sewer repairs, new water booster pump, and meter replacements totaling $1.8 million in Bowling Green. Other projects include waterline extensions in Corriganville, Klondike and Mexico Farms and a new wastewater treatment plant in Flintstone.
Other agencies to receive ARPA funding will be the Allegany County Detention Center, $446,000; sheriff’s office, $118,000; tourism office, $100,000; and state’s attorney’s office, $11,400.