LAPORTE — After almost five years since the Sullivan County Rural Broadband Task Force was formed, Pennsylvania’s smallest county is now on its way to obtaining high-speed internet for some of its residents.
Last week, Xfinity/Comcast announced that it would provide state of the art high speed internet along with other services to Eagles Mere and Laporte boroughs and parts of Shewsbury and Laporte townships, possibly servicing 1,200 addresses in the county.
“Since Brian (Hoffman) and I got elected four and half years ago we worked on broadband,” Sullivan County Commissioner Donna Iannone said in their meeting on Tuesday morning. “We knew that Sullivan County’s lack of broadband was one of our biggest issues. We’ve interviewed anyone that would talk to us that could provide some sort of broadband service.”
The commissioners then formed the task force, made up of themselves and a group on concerned citizens, and worked to grease the wheels of broadband service providers to provide services to Sullivan County.
“I think it’s even more prevalent now,” Iannone said of the lack of broadband infrastructure in the county. “After all of these kids are home from school and trying to get an education, some don’t have access to high-speed internet.”
Currently, Xfinity services the Eagles Mere and Laporte boroughs but only offers cable television. The new services, which the company hopes to be completed by the summer of 2021, would include internet with speeds up to one gigabyte per second for residences and up to 100 gigabytes per second for business accounts. Most providers currently in the county only offer speeds up to 100 megabytes per second, and effective speeds in the county are much lower.
The commissioners have not seen a complete map of the expansion into the county but have been told by Xfinity representatives that the line will be run from Muncy to Laporte.
“It’ll be comparable to if you were living in a big city and got Xfinity internet,” Iannone added.
Commissioner Darlene Fenton said in the meeting that just this weekend she had received at least five or six complaints about the internet in the county; the other commissioners concurred that connectivity is one of the largest issues in the county and on the minds of their constiuents.
Commissioner Hoffman said that the citizens on the Broadband Task Force were the biggest reason why progress had been made on the connectivity front.
“We gather and discuss these projects and we get their input,” Hoffman said. “It’s given us an effective right foot to kick some ass.”
State level legislators also praised the announcement from Xfinity to provide the services in the county.
“With thousands of Pennsylvanians learning and working from their homes, the importance of keeping people connected during this time of COVID-19 is critical,” State Senator Gene Yaw said in a press release last week. “I appreciate Comcast’s commitment to closing the digital divide in Sullivan County and addressing the needs of our unserved residents. This is welcome news.”
“This broadband expansion by Comcast is incredibly needed and vital to all in Sullivan County,” said State Rep. Tina Pickett (R-110). “Our business, education, medical and family needs will be far better served as a result of the project. We anxiously await the day when this level of service is available throughout the entire county.”
Some services may be available by the end of the year according to Xfinity but total completion is expected in the summer of 2021. The commissioners also said in the meeting that it would be likely that Xfinity could build on top of the new addition in the future.
“Technology is a powerful driver of innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth, and we recognize our company plays an important role in connecting Pennsylvanians to all that technology offers,” said Michael Parker, senior vice president of Comcast’s Keystone Region. “We are pleased to further invest in the Commonwealth and its residents and business by expanding our network to central Sullivan County.”