LYONS — Brian Pincelli, Wayne County’s economic development director, likens broadband internet to a utility second only to gas and electric.

“It’s not something I could live without,” Pincelli said.

But for some people in Wayne County, that utility remains elusive.

County officials say those gaps in service can’t remain in an age when broadband connects us in so many ways — from shopping to schooling.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved a resolution seeking a request for proposals from broadband companies to partner with the county to bring high-speed internet to areas where there is no, or poor, internet service.

The RFP asks broadband providers to outline their qualifications, technology solutions and costs estimates for a partnership with the county.

“This is all about closing that gap,” Pincelli said.

Around 3,400 county households still don’t have access to high-speed internet service, he said — a number that’s about half what it was three or four years ago.

The county has no plans to build its own fiber network, Pincelli emphasized.

“There are municipalities who are building networks,” he said. “That is not the model we are pursuing.”

The goal is to partner with a private company to bring internet to those areas in need. And while the more populous towns on the western end of the county are mostly covered, each community has areas without high-speed service, Pincelli said. Ultimately, the goal is to make it financially feasible for private companies to run cable in more sparsely populated areas where extending broadband is cost-prohibitive.

It’s undetermined how that partnership will work, he said. That will be decided when a county committee looks over the proposals.

“We’re looking at our options (to expand broadband),” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Ken Miller.

The county will be making a significant investment in the venture, said Pincelli.

“It is not going to be inexpensive,” he said, explaining that it costs $18,000 to $30,000 a mile to hang fiber cable.

Some of the money to help underwrite broadband expansion could come from the federal COVID relief legislation that will ultimately put $17.5 million in county coffers, with infrastructure improvements among the approved uses. There is another infrastructure bill proposed by President Biden and working its way through Congress that could also provide broadband expansion funds, said Pincelli.

Additionally, he said funding could be secured through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a federal agency that has a high-speed internet expansion program.

“We want to be ready for the funding,” Miller said.

Pincelli sees closing the broadband gap as a short-term project.

“I think we’re hopeful within two years we will be near completion of the project,” he said.

The broadband benefits are far-ranging, said Pincelli — from business development and education to real estate development.

“Are you going to purchase a home where internet is not available?” Pincelli asked rhetorically.