Commissioners continue to work on expanding broadband access to rural Lawrence County

BEDFORD — The Lawrence County Commissioners are working on expanding broadband access to rural Lawrence County.

Engineer Jeramy Elrod provided the county commissioners with information about local efforts to bring more broadband access and services to Lawrence County during a commissioner’s meeting in January 2022.

Jeramy Elrod

“Commissioner (Rodney) Fish and I spoke briefly, particularly about ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds that are available for water, sewer, and broadband projects for local governments,” Elrod said during that meeting.

Any ARPA funds the county decides to allocate toward broadband projects must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024. However, the project would have an extended deadline of Dec. 31, 2026. 

Elrod said, “The projects take time, both from the planning stages to putting down requests for proposals, to providers receiving proposals and reviewing proposals, and then of course deployment. The projects we’ve worked on are typically about a two-year deployment, depending on geography or terrain challenges.” 

Morley prepared a public request for proposal to receive applicant responses to deploy a network of high-speed broadband internet. Those responses need to meet ARPA fund eligibility.

Morley representatives will then meet with county officials to discuss the goals, needs, and objectives of the county.

Dustin Gabhart

But some of the work has been delayed because providers of the broadband service need more time to draft quotes.

“Everyone is showing interest and the more players the more competition for better pricing,” added Commissioner Dustin Gabhart. “We have given them a two-week extension.”

Morley will review all proposals and then submit a recommendation to county officials.