Adams County: The Keystone of a Major East Coast Digital Connection

By Marty Qually, Adams County Commissioner

Digital infrastructure is vital to all businesses today; it is considered an essential service such as electric, water, sewer, etc. Adams County’s key location in the Mid-Atlantic corridor places us firmly in the middle of an extensive project designed to upgrade our region’s digital assets. ACEDC welcomes guest columnist Adams County Commissioner Marty Qually to explain the value of this project to Adams County. 

This article was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, March 10, 2016.

In 1999 I landed my first job by e-mail. It felt like I had entered a new professional world. By 2013, my family had three devices that connected to the internet. Now we have 17! To say that our reliance on the internet has increased dramatically in three years is stating the obvious.

Like my family, Adams County is reaching a point where our digital infrastructure needs an upgrade. Recently I received some exciting news about a regional internet company and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), working together to help eastern and south-central PA catch up to the rest of the world.

United Fiber and Data (UFD), a York-based digital infrastructure company, is asking local business and community leaders to support plans to upgrade our digital infrastructure. UFD is in the process of running a high-capacity data line from New York City to Ashburn VA—the two largest data hubs on the east coast. These two cities have the highest concentration of IT, telecommunications, biotech, federal government, and international organization infrastructure on the east coast and are critical communication centers to Europe.

This new line running through PA will act as both an upgrade to current lines and a new level of geographic security for the entire network. What benefits could this new line bring to Adams County? Lower internet cost, improved home values, better education, new businesses, and improvements to the current business community—for starters.

Each of us pays a portion of our internet bill for a set amount of data. That data does not move from your device directly to the internet; instead it travels through a series of lines until it reaches a data hub, such as New York or Ashburn. The more lines it travels through, the more “tolls” are added by each carrier. If this new line is created it will dramatically decrease the number of lines or carriers that add fees.

Imagine trying to sell a house that’s not connected to electricity or sewer lines; your value would be much lower than the same house with these services. Likewise, houses and businesses with high-speed internet are valued higher than those without, especially for those interested in telecommuting to Baltimore or Washington, D.C.

Our economy is a digital economy. Fruit growers communicate with overseas buyers, tourism destinations use internet marketing, manufacturers are increasingly computerized. Adams County needs to keep our digital infrastructure strong and that means investigating and guiding UFD’s plans.

By the end of 2016, UFD will connect New York with Ashburn, and while the path will go through both Hanover, PA and Frederick, MD, the exact path between the two is still unknown but is sure to travel through Adams County. As a community, it is up to us to guide that path. In order to assist UFD, DCED has provided grant funds to facilitate the surveying of local businesses and residents. They are asking questions as simple as “Please describe your organization’s current use of information technology (computers, networked devices, information applications, Internet service).”

(The original article included a link to the survey here.)

For more information, check Gigabit FAQs. UFD will hold a follow-up meeting to discuss survey results at the HACC Gettysburg campus on April 21 at 1:30 pm. Thank you for considering this project and its implications for Adams County’s future.




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