Schuylkill County’s Broadband Task Force announced Friday – a day after we reported on 3 years of inactivity on a so-called Broadband Project – that Comcast “will receive a Letter of Support from the Schuylkill County Broadband Task Force for its grant submittal for the COVID-19 ARPA Broadband Infrastructure Program.”
Never mind the fortuitous timing of this announcement. What does this mean to you?
Basically, it means that those who have limited or no broadband internet access in Schuylkill County will have to pin their hopes on Comcast submitting a successful grant application to the state for some of the $279 million available across Pennsylvania for broadband expansion.
Then, those who are struggling with poor internet access here will have to wait until Comcast’s grant application is approved, the money is received and the company implements whatever plan it’s devised for expanding in Schuylkill County.
The Broadband Task Force, via Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce, says in a release from Friday that “eligible projects for the grant include either line extension and development or large-scale regional infrastructure” and that successful applications for the grant money should get endorsements like the BTF is giving to Comcast.
Putting All Our Broadband Expansion Eggs in One Basket
That announcement from the task force also indicates that it has been “vetting” internet providers here before deciding which, if any, applications to back for the grant program.
So, it’s pretty clear that other ISPs were interested in being part of broadband expansion in Schuylkill County and getting their hands on some of this grant money, but the task force doesn’t seem to be endorsing those application plans. That may not prevent those other local ISPs from submitting a successful grant application but it doesn’t help.
The task force says it “developed a submission process for ISPs that are interested in applying for projects in Schuylkill County.”
However, what’s unclear is who gave this unelected task force the authority to dictate who can and cannot provide internet service in Schuylkill County.
The task force says it did a thorough review of the proposals from ISPs before selecting Comcast’s application to endorse. Schuylkill County Broadband Task Force is a subcommittee of the Chamber’s Infrastructure Committee and is comprised of Chamber members, County government officials, the Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29, a “network” of libraries in Schuylkill County and other members of the community.