Lewisburg – A $150,000 grant was awarded to SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) to supplement its ongoing high-speed internet access efforts to three rural counties.

The U.S. Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant will help fund wireless networks in Juniata, Mifflin, and Perry counties where it’s not financially feasible for internet service providers to reach on their own.

John Brown, SEDA-COG’s executive director, said this is a critical service needed especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are thankful this grant award comes during the time it is most needed, with many people working from home, and businesses needing this essential internet service,” Brown said. “That’s why we’re here – to meet businesses and communities’ needs through every type of economic reality.”

Scott Kramer, SEDA-COG’s principal Information Technology specialist, said reducing the cost of providing broadband helps close the gaps for rural areas.

“The key is to incentivize the internet service providers to provide broadband services to our rural areas,” Kramer said.

Based on meetings with counties and Federal Communications Commission data, the target areas for the wireless networks include the Village of Honey Grove in Juniata County, the South River Road area (southwest of Mcveytown) in Mifflin County, and the Horse Valley Road area in Perry County.

The project will incentivize internet service providers in expanding their service to speeds of 25/3 or better to at least five businesses and 210 households. It will help retain 18 jobs and create two new jobs.

SEDA-COG will provide a total of $147,000 per county to internet service providers from the ARC grant and low-interest revolving loans. Per county, the ARC grant will be used as $47,000 reimbursable grants for internet service providers and the loans total $95,000 from the Pennsylvania Keystone Communities Program.

SEDA-COG published the request for proposals on March 6 and collected proposals from internet service providers today, May 1.

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.