LEWISBURG — High-speed Internet service just got one step closer to reality for three counties with a $300,000 state budget allocation.

To help address the lack of rural broadband infrastructure in Juniata, Mifflin, and Perry counties, SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) will partner with internet service providers through a low-interest-rate loan to make quality, affordable broadband available to businesses and residents in Juniata, Mifflin, and Perry counties.

The funding was made possible through the efforts of state Sen. Jake Corman, R-34 of Centre County; state Rep. Garth Everett, R-84, of Lycoming, Union counties, and state Rep. John Hershey, R-82 of Juniata, Mifflin and Franklin counties with support from other legislators in SEDA-COG’s region, officials said.

SEDA-COG Executive Director Bill Seigel thanked the legislators for making this effort a reality.

“There was tremendous support in both the state House and Senate,” Seigel said. “We greatly appreciate the efforts of Sen. Corman and Reps. Everett and Hershey. They recognized the leadership and foresight of SEDA-COG and Pennsylvania’s Local Development Districts and supported us as a leader of rural broadband initiatives.”

The first step is now underway — an inventory of vertical assets like emergency communication towers in the three counties. After that is completed, the counties will identify one area for the pilot project in each county.

Internet service providers will analyze the current infrastructure and then design solutions. The providers may then apply for the revolving loan fund, which will greatly reduce the cost of construction to complete the broadband projects in each county.

 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.

The purpose of the pilot is to test different wireless systems and develop partners to serve the three counties’ most rural areas. Once completed, the results will be used to develop an implementation plan for rural areas across Pennsylvania with continued partnership with legislators and the state’s Local Development Districts.

This project is one of multiple broadband efforts SEDA-COG is spearheading to address gaps in rural broadband coverage.

The agency, working with Design Nine Inc., also is conducting a broadband study for Clinton, Lycoming, Northumberland and Union counties. The study will analyze the types of broadband services available, broadband use patterns and gaps in coverage, and make recommendations to the counties as to how to improve coverage.

It sets the stage to fund and implement service. This project is made possible by support from Rep. Everett and Sen. John R. Gordner, R-27 of Columbia County, who also worked in tandem to fund the latest broadband project in Juniata, Mifflin, and Perry counties.

SEDA-COG is a community and economic development agency in Lewisburg and is one of seven Local Development Districts in Pennsylvania. SEDA-COG works to enhance the quality of life and economic advantage for residents and businesses in 11 central Pennsylvania counties through its partnerships and initiatives.