CUMBERLAND – The Allegany County Council of Commissioners has invested $ 1 million to bring wireless internet service to multiple areas with little to no connectivity.
The investment includes the installation of equipment at six sites in addition to four new towers across the county. Additional coverage has been added to Cash Valley, Ellerslie, Flintstone, the Warrior Mountain area and Oldtown.
The need to improve high-speed internet access has been a priority for several years and has become more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as working from home, virtual education, and telemedicine have become a challenge in these. regions and in others of the county.
“As last year showed, broadband is more important than ever. Allegany County is committed to making these ongoing investments for the long-term benefit of our community, ”said Jake Shade, chair of the commission.
Funding for the expansion came from the federal coronavirus relief program and state grants.
The expansion builds on the existing Allconet wireless network, which was first installed in the county in 1996. Allconet has partnered with Conxx NE, which provides data transfer and networking service. , to implement upgrades. Over the past few months, the Allconet network has been tested and optimized to fine-tune extended Internet service for residents and businesses in the region. The extension can provide speeds of up to 100mbps upload and 10mbps upload.
“Allconet core network speeds have increased tenfold in some areas,” Shade said.
“While this does not completely eliminate the service gaps, the new service offers a significant increase in broadband availability for residents and businesses,” said Beth Thomas, director of information technology for the county. from Allegany. “We now have this carrier-class service operational to enable local residents, institutions and businesses to be more efficient and competitive. “
The Allconet wireless system was established in 1996 when the state offered financial incentives to help wire public school buildings for fast Internet access. But connecting public schools with fiber optic cable would have been prohibitively expensive. As an alternative, officials at Allegany County public schools suggested a wireless network in which signals would be transmitted via microwave relays, traveling from one high point to another.
The first antenna was mounted on top of the Allegany County Courthouse.
A decision was made in the early 2000s to extend the wireless network to residents. The network now covers more than 90% of the county, including Frostburg State University and more than 40 government entities and nonprofits. Two retail providers, SkyPacket and TWR, serve approximately 75,000 residents.
In addition to the expanded service areas, Allegany County Commissioners are helping to make the connection affordable for households. To reduce the cost of the connection, customer equipment was purchased for the Allconet deployment to allow participating ISPs to waive their equipment costs. CPEs are available on a first come, first served basis.
Residents and businesses can inquire about the service from Internet service providers affiliated with Allconet, SkyPacket Networks, Fibercreek and TWR Communications.