Drive to Vital Service Accelerates | Opinion

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Valley County and Economic Development officials are working hard to accomplish a critical, but logistically challenging goal: bringing high-speed Internet access to rural areas of the Central Susquehanna Valley.

On Friday, Jennifer Wakeman, executive director of DRIVE (Driving Real Innovation for a Vibrant Economy) announced exciting news – the launch of a fixed wireless broadband network that will bring high-speed internet access to rural areas across 1,750 square miles. .

“Today is the culmination of 18 months of work, but it’s really just the beginning,” Wakeman said at the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday at the Montour Reserve Environmental Education Center near Danville. .

“We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of how this wireless will be used,” she said. “It’s not a static system, not everything is done today. It can grow, it can be extended. It can support more users, it can support more ISPs (Internet Service Providers), and it can meet many other needs.

Those of us who live in local communities, where superfast internet connections have been available for years, may not appreciate the full significance of Friday’s announcement. But the lucky ones among us have to imagine what the past few years would have been like – especially with everyone at home during the worst of the COVID pandemic – had we had extremely slow internet speeds or no internet connection at all. .

This is the situation in many rural areas of Northumberland, Snyder, Union and Montour counties. It’s a situation dubbed “the digital divide”, referring to the huge differences between those who have access to full Internet services and those who have little or no ability to receive e-mails, immediately call information from the at your fingertips, to watch a streaming movie or attend virtual events. school classes.

DRIVE, created by Columbia and Montour counties in 2015, was able to launch its new fixed wireless broadband network thanks to a public-private partnership with Geisinger, which provided a repayable loan of $300,000 to initially fund the project. .

In 2020, elected officials from Northumberland, Snyder, and Union counties joined the effort by donating the money they received through the federal CARES Act. Together, the five counties provided $3.2 million in CARES Act funds to build the new wireless network.

The hills and valleys of central Pennsylvania pose transmission problems, but experts are overcoming them by placing electronic equipment on county-owned 911 towers, corporate rooftops and private farm silos across the rural landscape.

Ultimately, microwave signals will be received in a rural home by a small dish or antenna installed on the property and connected to computers and other digital devices, finally providing people living and working in homes, farms and businesses located in our beautiful rural landscapes with fast connections to the whole world.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in editorials for The Daily Item are the consensus of the editor, key newsroom executives and editorial board community members. Today’s one was written by digital editor Dave Hilliard.

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