MERCER – Residents of northern Mercer County can be hooked into wireless broadband by the end of November and county commissioners are imploring residents of the region to submit their names to a list for the service.

The county approved a grant of $650,000 to No Limits Broadband LLC, Stoneboro, to obtain tower leases, licensing, engineering analysis and electrical installation to make monthly internet access available to subscribers in designated unserved or underserved areas.

The area is roughly between Sandy Lake and Greenville.

"We're very excited to continue to confirm that we're going forward with plans to begin deployment of the wireless internet to areas that are either underserved or unserved areas in the county," said Commissioner Scott Boyd, who has been spearheading the effort. "They are expected to begin services ... by using existing tower access across the county."

County officials are asking those interested in receiving the service to call the commissioners' office at 724-662-7533 and leave their names, phone numbers and addresses, and pass the information to No Limits Broadband.

Customers would pay a $100 installation fee and monthly fees ranging from $40 to $100.

Boyd said No Limits Broadband will call potential customers in the core coverage area first.

"It will be phased in under time as the towers become active," Boyd said. "So if you're in one of those key areas that are covered by these towers, you could be contacted in the very near future."

No Limits Broadband is using Federal Communications Commission mapping to find out who is underserved or unserved, Commissioner Matt McConnell said.

"They will be looking for customers to get that live and up and running," McConnell said. "But for other areas, this is a company that is not coming in just to do a few sites. Their plan is to continue to work in Mercer County, as they move forward and cover more areas that are more business related."

McConnell said if there are 20 to 40 people in one service area, it would be enough to justify a tower.

"If there are folks that are out there and they want it, that's going to be critical for the next phase of this," McConnell said.

The one-time grant of $9,881,956.45, under the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, must be used to help cope with the economic impacts of COVID-19. Mercer County Commissioners have committed the bulk of CARES Act funding to supporting county businesses, but earmarked a portion for expanding broadband internet service to unserved or underserved areas.

The county must use the funds by Nov. 30 or the state could reclaim the unspent portion and could distribute it to other counties.

Commissioners recently had approved spending $573,265 to purchase the hardware needed to provide service to 220 to 335 households.

To date, commissioners have passed resolutions unanimously approving spending $2,226,765 of the CARES grant. 

In addition to setting up broadband services, commissioners approved spending $993,500 to approve 132 small business grants. They also approved in September, granting Greenville-Reynolds Development Corporation $10,000 to fund a detailed load study to analyze the feasibility of constructing a high-voltage electricity transmission line to the Reynolds East business park.

Boyd said he thinks this money used for broadband services will serve a large number of people.

"For educational purposes, for health benefits as they contact their providers and working from home; all those types of things will be enhanced by this type of capability," Boyd said.

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Those who live in northern Mercer County, roughly between Greenville and Sandy Lake, and want to receive broadband internet service should call county commissioners at 724-662-7533 to have their names added to a list of possible customers. 

County officials will ask callers for their names, addresses and telephone numbers.

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