SEDA-COG’s Business Finance Department recently assisted Centre WISP Venture Company with an EDA COVID-19 loan to purchase fiber and equipment for a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) project in Centre and Mifflin counties. Centre WISP Venture Company was formed in January 2019 in State College, PA by David and Laura Gibbons.
Centre WISP is an Internet Service Provider that started servicing customers located across the counties of Centre, Mifflin, Juniata, and Perry Counties in July of 2019. They serve customers in areas that were, until Centre WISP deployed service, either unserved or under-served. The business has grown to provide broadband internet access to thousands of customers. SEDA-COG provided them loans in 2020 out of the SEDA-COG Broadband RLF loan fund so they could provide wireless service in Juniata, Perry, and Mifflin Counties.
This FTTH footprint in Centre and Mifflin counties will allow them to provide what is known as “gigabit symmetrical” service. This provides 1,000 megabits upload and download speeds to connected homes. The first FTTH footprint they will deploy in Mifflin County will allow them to serve approximately 500 homes.
The second FTTH footprint that they would like to deploy following completion of the Mifflin County project, is located in Centre County. This is a smaller neighborhood than the Mifflin pilot project, but this neighborhood has underground utilities, so the deployment cost is somewhat higher per home.
They will also offer phone service for a nominal fee, and TV service through a partnership with a national TV provider, in order to be able to provide competitive “triple play” products.
The SEDA-COG EDA COVID-19 loan is for a term of 10 years with a fixed low interest rate. Centre WISP was also awarded $12 million through the FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to build fiber optic home internet in areas within Centre, Mifflin, Juniata, Northumberland, and Huntingdon counties.
Tina Showers, SEDA-COG Principal Program Analyst worked with Jennifer Heebner, SEDA-COG Program Analyst, to bring this financing package to fruition.
“Centre WISP was in a bit of a unique position during the COVID-19 pandemic, in that their business actually grew significantly. As a telecommunications provider, they were classified as ‘critical’ during the pandemic and were not forced to shut down. Their business has essentially doubled in gross revenue and customer count over the course of the pandemic. Their services are needed even more so as a result of COVID-19 and we were thrilled to be able to help them,” said John Reichard, SEDA-COG Business Relationship Manager.
“Fiber To The Home (FTTH) is uniquely suited to address broadband challenges in rural areas. This FTTH build is the first of its kind of Mifflin County and will soon be the largest in Centre County in terms of serviceable homes,” said David Gibbons, CEO and Founder of Centre WISP.
“This service is bar-none the fastest, most reliable broadband available, and we’ve kept the price point accessible too. We’re activating customers in both service areas as we speak, and they are receiving real and immediate value from this significant investment,” he continued.
As a community and economic development agency, 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.