The four public libraries in the Bedford County Library system will be working with a nonprofit internet service provider to explore the possibility of bringing new high-speed broadband to their buildings.
Matt Godissart, Bedford County Library director, said he will be meeting with representatives from the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) next week to discuss the possibility of implementing their service in the libraries in Bedford, Everett, Hyndman and Saxton.
“One of KINBER’s goals is to basically make sure every community in Pennsylvania has access to high speed broadband,” Godissart said.
The nonprofit provides broadband services to organizations, including educational centers like schools and libraries, throughout the state, with the closest services offered at the Fannett-Metal School District in Franklin County and at Penn State-Altoona.
“There’s pretty much nothing in this part of the state,” Godissart said.
The company will visit Bedford County next week to begin discussions about expanding into the four libraries.
The preliminary plan would be to use the existing infrastructure in the county to offer the nonprofit’s fiberoptic service at the libraries.
Godissart said the service would be faster and less expensive than the commercial service currently used in the libraries.
“Right now we’re running on Comcast,” he said about the Bedford County Library. “It’s expensive. We get some federal money, but its minimal.”
The Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research offers service throughout the state, and has a focus on providing broadband to rural communities, according to its website.
Godissart said he is hopeful that the service can ultimately be added to the four libraries to serve as hubs in their community.
“This is only the first step of the process, but I’m really excited about it,” he said.
Shane Lynn, director of the Hyndman Londonderry Public Library, said internet service can be frustrating in the rural community.
“It’s difficult down here,” he said. “Sometimes when the train goes past daily, we’ll lose internet. Then we have to restart everything.”
The library has four computers available to the public. Lynn said they are frequently used by residents, calling them a “highlight” of the library.
“The internet speed is not terrible, but it can definitely be improved,” he said.
Expanding access to broadband internet service is part of Bedford County’s comprehensive plan and is a major objective of county planning.
While the libraries could potentially serve as the first host of the nonprofit internet service, it could be expanded to other organizations within the county.
“We’re hoping to be the cornerstone — a first step,” Godissart said.