Internet provider anticipates final report
LEWISBURG — Union County was the latest of four area counties to host a meeting where people could bring up the topic of high speed internet service.
The meeting, Friday morning in the Union County Government Center, was attended by Preston Boop, commissioner chair, Shawn McLaughlin and other county officials. Ben Ranck, recently named district representative for Congressman Fred Keller (R-Pa. 12) was also present. The sole members the public were representatives of internet service providers.
The opening presentation included an update by Jack Maytum, Design Nine senior business analyst, who has been contracted to study the viability of establishing an open access broadband network in the counties. The network, basically a public thoroughfare, would allow service to be sold to consumers via private internet providers. Conclusions from his study work were expected by the end of August.
“The idea here is that we are providing at least the basic minimum for every resident who wants it,” Maytum said. “Whereas, the current providers will go where they get the best return or bang for their buck.”
Maytum stressed that money paid by subscribers is reinvested locally to maintain and improve the system. In a study of a three-county area of West Virginia, Maytum projected that $1.027 billion would go back to those counties over 30 years.
Matt Hoppes, CEO of RiverValley Internet, said he would be interested in the final report. Hoppes said people who have retired to Central Pennsylvania have sometimes been disappointed to find out internet service was not adequate only after they bought property. He stressed to the group the need for 24-hour service in the event of storms or downed utility poles. RiverValley Internet serves all or part of five area counties.
Boop suspected that talk of grant money for broadband by Gov. Tom Wolf was merely rhetoric. Maytum said grants may be a good way to get a project started, but to base long-term development on grants was probably not a good business model.
More than 50 people attended similar sessions in both Lycoming and Clinton counties.
“People recognize the importance of having broadband,” Maytum said. “They know a lot of them don’t have it. Those of them that do have it, especially businesses, are paying a lot for it because there is not much if any competition.”
Maytum said the counties could further economic development by filling in the gaps in internet service. Retirees moving from larger areas expect service like they expect water and electric utilities.
Maytum said lack of broadband access is common to rural areas. West Virginia, because of mountainous topography, has virtually none. He noted a wireless network will never be as fast or usable as a wired network. Areas with adequate service often have a combination of the two.
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.