HONESDALE – The Wayne County Commissioners have provided nearly $1 million in Coronavirus Aid Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act funding approved by the federal government last March of six enhancement projects in the County.
Commissioners had tight restrictions and parameters on what types of projects could be funded and the timeline for when work had to be performed and completed, which didn’t allow for as many projects to be done as there was potential.
Commissioners quickly organized a meeting and invited all local Internet Service Providers, school districts, the library system, the health system and several utilities to discuss the funding available and the quick turnaround the federal government imposed. Commissioners Brian Smith, Joe Adams and Jocelyn Cramer asked those gathered to identify project that would quickly bring broadband to residents that could be done by the end of 2020. Multiple companies and local organizations submitted proposals and after the county and its consultant Essential Management Solutions, LLC, reviewed the projects, multiple grants were awarded in the fall.
“We didn’t have a lot of time but we are grateful for the cooperation shown by several Internet Service Providers, our fantastic library system and the Wayne Highlands School District. Their ability to provide quick turnaround benefits thousands of county residents and businesses,” the County Commissioners said.
The projects, which are already meeting their goals of providing service to Wayne County residents, include”
- At a cost of $17,079.40, the Wayne Library Alliance “Smart Library” initiative includes 60 Internet-capable devices available for public loan from its seven affiliated libraries in Bethany, Hamlin, Hawley, Honesdale, Lakewood, Newfoundland and Pleasant Mount. Community members without computer resources or broadband connectivity will not be able to access necessary online resources from their homes with this equipment.
- ICON Technologies is a wireless Internet services provider that has been serving the rural hard-to-reach areas of Wayne County for several years. CARES-funded enhancements totaling $427,405 have allowed ICON double its service area from 275 to 553 square miles and reach approximately $8,000 more County residents. More than 40 new installations are in progress and broadband speeds have been increased to meet or exceed minimum federal standards. Approximately 50 existing customers have already requested service upgrades and community awareness of these new capabilities results in daily inquiries about obtaining broadband service from ICON.
- The Wayne Highlands School District was provided with $30,000 in CARES funding to enhance wireless coverage at its six campuses in an effort to support both modern Internet-based educational curricula and remote student learning capabilities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to in-building coverage, wireless access was enabled on school grounds to allow drive-up access to download educational materials and upload homework assignments.
- Adams Cable Service expanded connectivity using $271,272 in CARES funding to Big Hills, White, Ryan Hill and Van Leuvan Roads where 68 homes now have access to broadband services. Additionally, by adding and splitting “nodes,” Adams was able to improve services to 2,400 existing customer who now have better service quality and an opportunity to realize increased Internet upload and download speeds. The latter project will also allow Adams to offer service to more area residents who request it.
- Laurel Highlands Total Communications completed two CARES-funded projects for a total cost of $137,000. The first involved installation of new fiber optic cable passing a total of 36 homes on Prompton Road and Ridge Lake Drive, which will allow residents an opportunity to acquire previously unavailable broadband services; two new customers have already been added and more installations are scheduled in the coming weeks. The second project involved a central office equipment upgrade that will allow Laurel Highlands to expand its current 1,200 residential customers; a half-dozen subscribers have already benefitted, and this project will support service to the remainder of the 3,000 homes and businesses situated in the coverage area.
- The Hancock Telephone Company received $32,950.79 to construct new high-speed fiber optic connectivity along a 1.5-mile stretch of Route 370 in the Starlight area that can serve two dozen homes. To date, seven of these home have already activated service, five more are scheduled and four additional inquiries have been received. These customers can receive gigabyte-speed broadband connectivity along with both voice and video services, and have already reported using their capabilities for both working and schooling from home.