Turnpike plan to expand internet access in area

Since October 2016, the turnpike commission has hired companies to provide legal and financial advice, developed a short list of the broadband network’s potential developers/operators and hired companies to study potential environmental obstacles.

The turnpike has set up the project as a public-private partnership. That means the turnpike will provide the right of way where the network will run and receive 288 strands of the fiber-optic cable for its own use. The chosen private developer will have an unknown number of strands to sell space on its share of the network to others.

The turnpike projects the network will cost between $250 million to $300 million, but turnpike officials said the agency could break even by selling space on its strands. The private developer will gain the right to operate the system for at least 35 years. The turnpike is also seeking $60 million in federal money.

Most of the 550-mile turnpike runs east-west near the state’s southern border, but about 110 miles stretch into Northeast Pennsylvania along an extension that starts near Norristown and ends in South Abington Twp.

“The real advantage here is this will result in a major fiber-optic cable in some rural areas where it doesn’t exist, just following the path of the turnpike,” project manager Dale Witmer said.