CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — The world relied on the internet this past year for remote working, virtual learning, and connecting with loved ones online. Due to the need for internet, it became clear what communities were lacking in high speed broadband.

In Centre County, thousands of community members do not have high speed broadband. Thursday, Commissioners unanimously chose a consultant group to help create a plan for better broadband.

“This is our priority, in my humble opinion, here in Centre County,” said Commissioner Steve Dershem.

In 2015, the federal government changed the definition of high speed broadband from 4 MBPS Download / 1 MPBS Upload to 24 MBPS Download / 3 MPBS Upload.

“So, we may have some places in the county that you wouldn’t think wouldn’t have broadband, but from a technical definition they don’t,” said Commissioner Michael Pipe.

For $175,000 dollars, Centre Commissioners selected CTC Technology as the county’s consultant, expressing their confidence in the company’s history.

“My ongoing concern in government is we do studies and then they don’t turn into anything, they just sit on a shelf in a book, and I think these are the people that have demonstrated that they can get things done,” said Dershem.

Commissioners said those with minimal service will be helped first.

“But the other opportunity exists out there for us to get Black Fiber throughout the more urbanized areas of the county, and I think that’s really where the opportunities are,” said Dershem.

On average before the pandemic, it cost the county about $38,000 per mile to lay fiber optic. The grant funding commissioners will apply for could make it possible to spread fiber optics into larger neighborhoods, according to Commissioner Mark Higgins.

“We also, I believe, have a grant outstanding to bring fiber into portions of Snow Shoe, and depending where the grant money runs out maybe even as far as Clarence,” said Higgins. “But there are many billions of dollars of federal, and hopefully soon, based on the comments of the legislative aids, state money, available as well.”

A survey will be available in person and online to share personal experiences with broadband to better inform consultants of the local need.