Chris Harshberger of Cairnbrook took on the challenge of getting her neighbors signed up for Verizon high speed Internet access.
"I think I had to get 15 or 17 people; I'm not sure because that was a couple of years ago," she said in a telephone interview. She is a resident of Shaffer Mountain. "It was worth it. We only had dial-up before that. I went house to house and people signed up. Verizon had it installed within that year."
Harshberger was what is called an "aggregator." In 2008 Verizon started a program called the Bona Fide Retail Request. Under BFRR, people who live in areas without broadband service signed up to be aggregators. Those aggregators got other people in the customer service area to sign up for broadband. The number of people needed depends on the population of that area.
"We're working on more now," he said. "We've had a lot of success with it."
Verizon agrees. Currently more than 80 percent of Verizon customers in Somerset County have access to broadband Internet service. Verizon has completed 28 BFRRs in Somerset County and has another 10 in the works. Chapter 30 of Title 66 of the Public Utility Code was enacted in 1993 "in order to achieve early deployment of a universally available state-of-the-art broadband network in Pennsylvania." Under that law Dec. 31, 2015 is the target date for completion.
"We'll make it," said Lee Gierczynski, spokesman for Verizon Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Verizon uses multiple technologies, including DSL and LTE, through the county to expand the availability of broadband Internet service, he said.
When the process began years ago most people were just trying to get dial-up Internet access, Metzgar said. Now high speed Internet is the goal. There are still areas in the county without it.
"Some say cellular service is enough, but it isn't for businesses," he said. "We need wireless Internet service."