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Broadband initiative advances in Allegany County

A five-year mission to bring wireless broadband internet service to Allegany County is moving forward. Portions of a new system should be operational by early fall, Legislator Dave Pullen told WBFO News.

A key step was taken within the past week when the Board of Legislators approved a local law that will pave the way for the creation of a not-for-profit local development corporation to manage the system. Pullen says the LDC will ensure that the county will have some control over the system.

“We’re not a business. We’re government. So we don’t want the county to be operating that, but we want the county to ultimately have control," Pullen said. "It owns this facility and wants it to be maintained and operated in the public interest.”

The corporation would be a quasi public-private partnership. It would work with so-called "last-mile" providers -- companies that will help homes and businesses gain access to the system. Pullen, who chairs the Facilities and Communications Committee, believes the LDC will provide a solid management matrix while also preserving the county's ability to shape policies.

"We want to have the county maintain the ultimate quality of service, general pricing, availability. We want it to be affordable.”

The state provided a grant to Allegany County to create the broadband system. Pullen noted that there are formidable challenges in providing broadband service to rural, sparsely-populated regions.

When it's fully operational,  between 95% and 98% of the population in Allegany County will have the ability to access the system, Pullen said.

One long-term goal will be to make sure that the broadband system keeps up with "cutting edge" technology, Pullen added.

“Given the rapid evolution of technology, we recognize that we are going to need to continually upgrade this system to provide better service, broader bandwidth and other features. But that’s in the future.”