School district in York County excited about future impacts of multi-million dollar broadband project

York

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — A multi-million dollar project is underway in York County to bring better internet access to rural areas. It will have major implications for tons of people who live and work in the county, and for a local school district.

South Eastern School District Superintendent Nathan Van Deusen says internet access is a real problem for his district. “We have parts of our community that we just don’t have access to the internet,” Van Deusen said.

When the pandemic hit they couldn’t rely entirely on online classes like other districts could.

“That was a real eye-opener for us,” Van Deusen said “Because our families couldn’t get themselves to the google classroom, they couldn’t get themselves online.”

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They bought more than a hundred wifi hotspots to get families internet, but that came with high costs and still didn’t give students a strong and reliable connection.

“A bandaid for the problem. It wasn’t a solution for a bigger long-term issue that we realized,” Van Deusen said.

York County is investing up to $25 million dollars of CARES Act funding into putting fiber-optic rings in areas that need better internet. Vice President Commissioner Doug Hoke believes it will have wide-reaching impacts.

“I think it’s an excellent project and I think it will benefit not only the business community, the educators, the farming community but everyone in business,” Hoke said.

The commissioners discussed the project at their town hall on Wednesday night. President Commissioner Julie Wheeler said they estimate the project will be done by 2024.

“In this day and age, having broadband access is really important,” Wheeler said. “The days of just surfing the web are gone, when you look at telehealth and remote learning and all those types of things. We really need to make sure we not only have accessibility, but we have affordability.”

It has major potential for South Eastern families.

“There wouldn’t be dead spots basically within our district,” Van Deusen said.

He says it will help address problems with equity and give students access to more educational resources.

“This project is helping to meet a need that our families have,” Van Deusen said. “That internet access is basically a foundational aspect of, I think, as we move forward where we need to go.”

At Wednesday night’s town hall the commissioners spoke about several other topics including 911 center staffing, changes for the upcoming election, and water quality monitoring. You can watch the full meeting here.

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