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Pennsylvania Counties Seek $1M for Broadband Expansion

Northumberland and Union counties through SEDA-Council of Governments are seeking $1 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) funds toward the expansion of broadband.

(TNS) — Northumberland and Union counties through SEDA-Council of Governments are seeking $1 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) funds toward the expansion of broadband.

The two counties join Clinton and Lycoming counties in directing the Lewisburg-based SEDA-COG to apply for the RACP, a commonwealth grant program administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects. Northumberland County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to move forward with seeking the grant.

"This project will work with the internet service providers (ISPs) in each of the counties in the project region (Clinton, Lycoming, Northumberland and Union) to provide equipment and fiber to provide unserved and underserved areas in those counties with high-speed internet access," said Betsy Lockwood, SEDA-COG director of of project development and grants. "High speed internet access is defined as a minimum of 100/100mb service to businesses and 50/10mb service to residents within the project areas."

RACP projects are authorized in the Redevelopment Assistance section of a Capital Budget Itemization Act, have a regional or multi-jurisdictional impact, and generate substantial increases or maintain current levels of employment, tax revenues, or other measures of economic activity. RACP projects are state-funded projects that cannot obtain primary funding under other state programs.

This project is needed to "provide funding for reimbursable grants to incentivize ISPs in expanding their service areas into the unserved/underserved rural regions of the four counties where it may not be financially feasible for a traditional buildout," she said.

In addition to the $1 million of RACP funds, the project was also awarded $2.5 million in Appalachian Regional Commission POWER funds. SEDA-COG is also offering Revolving Loan Funds for the project on an as-needed basis. Finally, the ISPs will be providing additional private sector investment which may include assets already in place, in-kind services and cash, said Lockwood.

The next steps for RACP funds is to meet with the consultant assigned by the Office of Budget, who administers RACP funds, to work through the application and business plan, said Lockwood.

For the overall project, staff recently released a Request for Quotes for third-party inspection services. Also, the staff is finalizing professional and technical services agreements for internet service providers, said Lockwood.

Specifically, in Union County, Lockwood said residents who will benefit include the area in and around Mazeppa and Kelly Township comprising a 7.76-square-mile area containing five businesses and 140 to 150 households.

In Northumberland County, residents who will benefit include southeast Northumberland County between Leck Kill and Route 125 comprising a 6.1-square-mile area containing four businesses and 80 to 100 households, said Lockwood.

In Clinton County, it is sections East of Loganton comprising a 6.8-square-mile area containing seven businesses and 350 to 360 households. In Lycoming County, it is sections of Moreland Township comprising a 6.5-square-mile area containing five businesses and 180-190 households, said Lockwood.

SEDA-COG anticipates going to construction in this spring or summer with the completion of the project no later than Dec. 31, 2024, she said.

Northumberland County Commissioner Sam Schiccatano said the county has been working with SEDA-COG for a couple of years to brings this project to fruition.

"It's finally coming together," he said.

© 2023 The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.