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From the Desk of County Commissioner
 Marty Qually

(3/2016) In 1999 I got my first job with e-mail. It felt like I had entered a new professional world. Now, like many of us, I use e-mail more than my phone (unless you count when I use my phone for e-mail). Three years ago my family had three devices that connected to the internet. Now we have seventeen. Six phones, three gaming systems, three tablets, our HVAC system, two ROKUs, a watch, and our PC comprise our new digital world.

To say that our need to connect to the internet has changed dramatically in just three years is stating the obvious. Like my family, Adams County is reaching a point where our digital infrastructure will need to improve. Some would say we have already fallen behind our neighbors. Recently I received some exciting news about a regional internet company and the Pa Department of Community and Economic Development working together to help Eastern and South Central Pa catch up to the rest of the world.

Recently, United Fiber and Data, a York based digital infrastructure company, made a presentation to local businesses and community leaders regarding plans to upgrade digital infrastructure. UFD is in the process of running a high capacity data line from New York City to Ashburn VA, which are the two largest data hubs on the east coast. These two cities have the highest concentration of IT, Telecommunications, biotech, federal government, and international organization infrastructure on the east coast and are critical communication centers to Europe. Currently, most of the internet infrastructure connecting these two cities is located within the I-95 corridor.

This new line running through Pa will act as both an upgrade to current lines and will create a new level of geographic security for the entire network. By taking a more rural path through Pennsylvanian and not simply upgrading the I-95 corridor, our network will in essence create two geographically separate routes for data to flow. Imagine if an accident or worse an intentional attack severed the current digital infrastructure between Ashburn and New York. Without a redundant path much of our economy would grind to a halt waiting for the line to be repaired. This new line, while important to the system as a whole, could reap benefits to our local community, if we chose to get connected.

What could this new faster line mean for us? Lower cost internet, improved home values, better education, new businesses and improvements to our current business community. These are all examples of what could be in our near future. Each of us pays a portion of our internet bill for a set amount of data. That data does not move from your device directly to the internet, instead it travels through a series of lines until it reaches a data hub, such as New York or Ashburn. The more lines it travels through, the more "tolls" are added by each carrier. If this new line is created it will dramatically decrease the number of lines or carriers that take add their fees to your data price. Imagine trying to sell a house thatís not connected to electricity or sewer lines, your value would be much lower than the same house with these services. Houses with hi-speed internet are valued higher than homes without, especially for those interested in telecommuting to Baltimore or Washington.

Our schools are providing laptops to students to expand their educational opportunities and keep them on par with students from across America. If these students cannot connect to high speed internet from home, they will be at a disadvantage. Lastly, our economy is a digital economy. Fruit growers communicate with overseas buyers, tourism destinations use internet marketing, manufacturers are increasingly computerized. In so many areas we need to keep our digital infrastructure strong and today that means investigating United Fiber and Dataís plans going through our community.

By the end of 2016 United Fiber and Data will connect New York and Ashburn, and while their path will go through both Hanover, PA and Frederick, MD, the path between the two is still unknown. This path will clearly go through Adams County, but as a community it is up to us to help guide that path. In order to assist UFD in determining the best course, DCED has provided grant funds to facilitate the surveying of basic local businesses and residents. They are asking questions as simple as "Please describe your organizationís current use of information technology (computers, networked devices, information applications, Internet service)", "Generally, please describe your organizationís plans for the future (next five years)", or "Do you feel that very high speed Internet in their area would help attract and retain high tech employees?". Adams County government already completed our survey in about 5 minutes, it was a piece of cake.

Please take the time to go complete the survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/cxgzny8.

This information will help UFD determine if a community has a need and a desire for improved internet. The more responses in any given area, the more likely the path with go through that area. The challenge at that point becomes connecting our existing infrastructure to this new line. While a new high speed digital highway may pass right through our community, if we donít create off-ramps and roads from our businesses and homes to this highway, it will just stream past us. My hope is that local businesses see the need for this and lobby their existing internet providers to make the connection and pass on the lower costs to their consumers.

This was a lot of information in a short article. If you want more information about this project, check out this link, http://gigabitrev.org/faqs/. UFD will also have a follow up meeting to discuss the survey results at the HACC Gettysburg campus on April 21st at 1:30 pm. As always am available at 717-339-6514.

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