Mifflin and Perry counties are expanding high-speed internet access to hundreds of customers, expanding on SEDA-Council of Governments’ (SEDA-COG) broadband project with Juniata County.

Centre WISP will provide high-speed internet to 210 residents and five businesses in the River Road region south of McVeytown in Mifflin County and to 100 residents and three businesses in the Horse Valley Road area in west Perry County. Centre WISP has begun providing service to Juniata County residents and businesses within 8 miles of the Black Log tower near the Village of Honey Grove in Reeds Gap and plans to expand to more of the county by year’s end.

Service will be available to portions of the Mifflin County pilot area by November. Centre WISP expects the remainder of the Mifflin County pilot area, and the Perry county pilot area, to begin receiving service in the next few months.

The counties worked with SEDA-COG to secure state and federal funds to incentivize the internet expansion project and to select Centre WISP.

Mifflin County Commissioner Robert P. Postal gave the background of the county’s involvement.

“Mifflin County has been working on improved internet connectivity since the formation of the Mifflin County Internet Advisory Committee in 2016. Last year, the Committee sponsored, with funds from the Commissioners, a broadband study that identified the River Road neighborhood as a priority for attention,” Postal said. “By partnering with SEDA-COG and the Appalachian Regional Commission, funds to finance broadband development in this area is a great win for the businesses and households.”

Perry County Commissioner Brenda Watson said this is a tremendous boon for the county.

“We understand how vital high-speed internet is, especially with more people than ever working remotely because of the pandemic. We are committed to narrowing the digital divide and enhancing our county’s residents’ and businesses’ competitive edge,” Watson said.

SEDA-COG will provide Centre WISP low-interest revolving loans from a state Keystone Communities Program grant, totaling $95,000 per county served. A U.S. Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant gives $47,000 per county served. Centre WISP will receive a total of $426,000 from the loan and grant funds for servicing the three counties.

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

SEDA-COG Assistant Executive Director Mike Fisher thanked Sens. Jake Corman and John DiSanto and Reps. John Hershey, Kerry Benninghoff, Rich Irvin, and Mark Keller for helping to secure the grants. He also recognized the counties and their staff for driving the project.

“We could not have done this three-county broadband project without our legislators and the leadership of our counties,” Fisher said. “We are thrilled that this project is meeting such a crucial need across several counties. We are here to fill the gaps and create public-private partnerships to meet needs that otherwise would not exist.”

Customers can choose from four packages providing speeds up to 40 megabits per second, all with no data caps. Interested customers should visit the website at www.centrewisp.com and pick their county to see pricing and speeds, and to sign up. Centre WISP will not raise their prices for at least two years.

Dave Gibbons, Centre WISP owner, thanked the project partners and explained the impacts of the expansion.

“We are excited to be working alongside SEDA-COG and Mifflin and Perry counties. These public-private partnerships provide much-needed broadband internet access in locations that presently lack the kind of connectivity modern life demands. This funding phase will allow Centre WISP to expand our coverage all the way from Centre County to Perry County, servicing each valley in between. The expansion puts thousands of customers into our service footprint, and we’re looking forward to providing fast and reliable internet access from these new towers.”

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.