Revitalizing Appalachian towns with broadband

Revitalizing Appalachian towns with broadband

Several communities in Appalachia will get expert help leveraging their broadband services to boost local economic development, improve the environment and public health and expand connectivity in downtown areas.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Appalachian Regional Commission chose 10 communities in six states to participate in the Cool & Connected planning assistance program.

Working with a team of agency experts, the communities will create plans for using incoming or existing broadband services with their local assets -- like cultural and recreational amenities -- to attract investment and revive downtown areas and local economies.

Haleyville, Ala., for example, will use the support to promote business development, diversify the economy and provide digital archives and e-government solutions. Two communities in Virginia want to develop Wi-Fi zones and extend broadband service to encourage main street business development. Curwensville, Pa., plans to create a downtown coworking space that residents can use as an alternative to working from home or commuting.

Some of the selected partner communities will develop strategies that will protect the environment, air and water quality and preserve farmland by reusing existing infrastructure and reinvesting in established areas.

Portsmouth, Ohio, will leverage the broadband and public Wi-Fi in the Southern Ohio Port Authority’s historic and commercial districts to open more businesses and improve walkability. It will also connect downtown amenities to recreational areas with information kiosks and smartphone technology.  

Support for Cool & Connected is provided by the EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities, the USDA’s Rural Utilizes Service and the Obama Administration’s Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative. The program plans to announce a new round of community partnerships in the fall of 2016.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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