Commissioners advance plan to expand internet access across York County

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York County advanced a contract that would bridge the so-called "middle mile" of broadband internet access.

The middle mile is the infrastructure that carry large amounts of data between regional hubs and the individual customers both in urban and rural settings.

On Wednesday night, the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously for two contracts with Alabama-based firm Lit Communities for broadband services in the county.

>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism. 

The two contracts — still to be negotiated but not to exceed $20 million — will expand infrastructure in the areas of New Freedom, Railroad, Glen Rock and Seven Valleys boroughs as well as additional fiber-optic lines elsewhere in the county.

"I think it's great for the county to have an opportunity to share in a revenue sharing model," President Commissioner Julie Wheeler said. 

Silas Chamberlain, part of the YoCo Fiber Optic Task Force that advised York County on its broadband strategy, told the board that Lit Communities will build the last-mile network at no cost to the county and compensate the county for access to the county's own middle-mile network.

"It's a replicable model," he said. "It's something we can do over and over again throughout the county with internet providers."

More:Dover solar power project receives approval ⁠— with conditions

More:'Closing the digital divide': What Pa.'s broadband bill means for York County

More:'Diversity Day' event devolves into culture war amid bullying allegations

As a whole, the project would greatly expand internet access in southern York County.

"That's the portion of the county that's most underserved," Chamberlain said. "There's portions of rings 4 and rings 5 and even some of ring 6 where up to 70% of households do not currently have broadband access because there's just no fiber infrastructure in those areas." 

The county previously worked with Lit Communities to install 16 miles of fiber optic cable at the Heritage Rail Trail, allowing for wi-fi access.

In addition to the decision on broadband, the commissioners also approved a grant award of $38,452.40 from the Department of State to improve the administration of elections.

Every county in Pennsylvania is receiving a grant, according to Department of State spokesman Mark Walters. The total amount of grant funding given was $1.1 million.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.