High-speed internet access is expanding in Juniata County, thanks to an effort by the Juniata County Commissioners in partnership with SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) and internet service provider Centre WISP.

Residents and businesses within 8 miles of the Black Log tower near the Village of Honey Grove in Reeds Gap will receive service today, Oct. 2, potentially reaching hundreds of customers when it is at capacity at year’s end.

Almost 200 residents and businesses across the county have indicated interest in receiving the internet service, according to Centre WISP.

Brad Kerstetter, Director of the Juniata County Office of Planning and Community Development, directed the project while working with SEDA-COG to secure state and federal funds to incentivize the internet expansion project and to select Centre WISP.

Through the grant funding, Centre WISP will receive a total of $142,000 for the pilot project. As part of that funding, SEDA-COG offered Centre WISP $95,000 as a low-interest loan from a state Keystone Communities Program grant and a $47,000 grant from a U.S. Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant.

The funds incentivized Centre WISP to provide internet service where it wasn’t financially feasible to reach on their own, helping to bridge what’s known as the “last-mile funding gap.”

These grants laid the foundation and will make it possible to expand internet service since the county also received CARES Act funds that will power internet service expansion throughout the county.

“Expanding internet service through the Black Log tower is the pilot project to build on to expand service throughout the county. We are proud and excited to partner with SEDA-COG and Centre WISP to provide this necessary service to our residents and businesses,” said Juniata County Commissioners Alice Gray, Todd Graybill, and Mark Partner.

Mike Fisher, SEDA-COG Assistant Executive Director, thanked State Legislators for securing the grants as well as the County Commissioners and their staff for their leadership and technical guidance.

“We thank Sens. Jake Corman and John DiSanto and Reps. John Hershey, Kerry Benninghoff, Rich Irvin, and Mark Keller for helping to make this tremendous effort possible. High-speed internet access is crucial for homes and businesses, especially during this pandemic,” Fisher said.

He also recognized the Juniata County Commissioners and their staff, indicating this is an example of what a public-private partnership can do. “The County Commissioners and Brad Kerstetter are a phenomenal driving force behind this project, and we thank them for their leadership. Our staff are here to provide services to our member counties to make these needed projects possible,” Fisher said.

Customers can choose between four residential packages, the fastest of which offers speeds of 40 megabits download and 8 megabits upload.

Dave Gibbons, Centre WISP Owner, thanked the county and SEDA-COG for making the project possible.

“We greatly appreciate Juniata County’s partnership with us and thank you to SEDA-COG for making this project happen. We are very excited to be deploying service in Juniata County,” Gibbons said.

SEDA-COG enhances the quality of life and economic advantage for residents and businesses in 11 central Pennsylvania counties through its vital partnerships and initiatives. SEDA-COG also is an advocate for the interests of its communities at the state and federal levels. For more information, visit www.seda-cog.org.