Tonopah officials purse federal program for broadband service

Tonopah is on the road toward possible broadband expansion.

Town Board members are expressing interest in a federal effort that would assist in area broadband expansion efforts.

“The program is designed for communities interested in broadband service to help revitalize, specifically small-town main streets, and promote economic development through increased planning and strategies for broadband,” Assistant Nye County Manager Joni Eastley recently told town board members.

The initiative is through the Cool and Connected program of the federal government.

“There is no cost to the town, but through the Cool and Connected program, a team of experts will come to Tonopah, and they will help the community develop strategies and an action plan for using planned broadband programs or existing broadband service,” Eastley said.

In her briefing, Eastley said that the federal program aims “to promote smart, sustainable community development.”

Earlier this winter, Eastley received the announcement about the broadband opportunity.

“I thought when I read this that it had Tonopah’s name all over it, specifically because of some of the eligibility requirements,” she said. “Special consideration is given to small towns in rural communities that face economic challenges. That is us.”

Cool and Connected is a pilot program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service and Office of Sustainable Communities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Special consideration will be given to communities where the USDA has provided loans or grants in support of broadband or other Internet related services, Eastley said.

Through Nevada’s broadband program, Arizona Nevada Tower Corp. was given a $1.2 million grant for broadband service in Gabbs.

“So there already is a USDA presence through broadband grants in Nye County so I thought that was in our favor,” Eastley said of the application process.

“I pretty much filled in the gaps and talked about how new broadband or upgrading existing broadband could attract new types of business to Main Street, how we could set up Wi-Fi hotspots,” she added.

This includes at the nearby north Tonopah mancamp off U.S. 95 in Esmeralda County.

“Even though it’s in another county, it’s pretty close,” Eastley said.

She’s already contacted Arizona Nevada Tower, which has the Gabbs presence, about working with Tonopah.

“They wholeheartedly agreed that they would like to do that so I built them into the grant,” Eastley said.

Town board members support the effort.

“I would love to see us with more e-commerce in our historic district here with different businesses,” said Tom Seley, Tonopah town board vice chairman.

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A closer look

■ Quality broadband access can provide new opportunities for people and businesses.

■ Communities have combined broadband service with other local assets — such as cultural and recreational amenities — to attract and retain investment and people, including young people.

■ This can help diversify local economies.

■ The Cool and Connected program helps communities take advantage of new or existing broadband service to create walkable, connected, economically vibrant main streets and small-town neighborhoods.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Check the Tonopah Times-Bonanza for updates on this story.