(ERIE, P.A. - WICU/WSEE/CW) – Imagine your local fire department not having access to reliable internet. 

      This may seem hard to believe, but in some communities across the area, it's a reality, especially in rural areas.

But that'll soon change, as five volunteer departments are set to receive a significant boost in their broadband internet connection.

The five departments are:

  • Spartansburg-Crawford County
  • Garland-Warren County
  • Wrightsville-Warren County
  • Spring Creek-Warren County
  • Chandlers Valley-Warren County

Through a combined effort from the Oil City-based community development organization “The Northwest Commission” and the Youngsville, PA non-profit “Youngsville Television Corporation” the departments will receive a share of $2.2 million to help strengthen their internet services.

Youngsville matched a federal Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant, which while Northwest applied for it.

The plan is to add smaller fiber optic cords to the existing wired and wireless broadband systems in-house at the five firehouses. The high-speed connection will then be spread to the respective communities. It will be at no cost to fire departments, at least through the lifespan of the soon-to-be-installed cords.

Youngsville will be handling the installation.

"It's huge." Said Executive Director for The Northwest Commission Jill Foys "It's not only being able to pick up our phones and look at our Facebook page."

Foys says mixing the fiber optic, instead of a flat-out revamp, is a lower-cost way to handle a high-priority issue. As reported by Erie News Now John Last in February, fiber optic cables can be very expensive, which makes installing them difficult for counties.

We spoke with the Chief of the Spring Creek Fire Department, Calvin Thompson. Thompson says the department’s current connection is unreliable, which impacts their ability to log the fires they’ve responded to, and use some of their pager technology while out on a call.

"I'm hoping it's a lot better than what we have." said Thompson

Thompson says his crew will often have to reset their wired router at least five times a day.

"When it's not working, we can't do anything until it’s back on." Thompson said

Foys says the installation process should not take long, and could take place within the next few months. Northwest is eyeing a possibility of expanding this effort to other towns in the near future.