Grant to bring broadband to three townships in McKean Co. | News

A grant of more than $530,000 has been obtained to bring broadband to Hamlin, Keating and Sergeant townships in McKean County.

The project will provide service to 212 residential structures and four business structures.

Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of $10 million for 19 projects, including this one, through the Commonwealth Financing Authority for nongovernmental entities to deploy middle-mile and last-mile high-speed broadband infrastructure to unserved areas in Pennsylvania through the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program.

“Nearly one million Pennsylvanians lack access to broadband internet connectivity – and we are working to change that,” said Wolf. “High-speed internet is critical for working and learning from home, for businesses operating online services, for patients relying on telehealth, and more. This funding will help enhance the quality of life for residents in unserved areas of the commonwealth.”

The grant was awarded through the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Program to SkyPacket Networks Inc., which has been working with McKean County commissioners to enhance broadband service in the county. The company will use the funding to help install fixed wireless broadband infrastructure in Hamlin, Keating and Sergeant townships.

The total project cost is $706,998, with SkyPacket committing $176,750. The grant is for $530,248.

Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, who authored the legislation creating the grant program, said, “Broadband service is a necessity, not a luxury, and I am pleased to see this sizable investment in expanding access to more people in McKean County. I look forward to more investments like this one across the Northern Tier to ensure our students, families, employers and health care providers have the high-speed internet service they need.”

Sen. Cris Dush, R-Brookville, said, “Rural Pennsylvanians have been suffering from a lack of interest on the part of major providers in providing broadband to our region of PA. Our local governments and smaller providers like SkyPacket have been doing some out-of-the-box thinking to develop ways to provide what is, in this day and age, a critical service to our constituents, schools, employers and health care services.”

He added that he was excited to support Causer’s bill in the Senate “to help our local government partners gain resources to complete projects like this for our underserved constituents.”

According to its grant application, SkyPacket is planning to expand its fixed wireless broadband network by installing two new 120-foot towers. SkyPacket is working with McKean County and private landowners to secure lease agreements for the two tower site locations. The proposed infrastructure will provide speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload and maximum speeds of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

Dush explained, “There are 4 brick and mortar businesses, a few home-based businesses, and numerous properties that are used for various agricultural, forestry, natural gas or utility purposes within the area to be affected by this project. Improved access to high-speed internet service will help retain the jobs at the existing businesses and make the area more appealing for future development.”

The senator continued, “Additionally, the pandemic has shown us the importance of people being able to function from home, whether it be work-related, school-related or just social interaction and entertainment — it all increases the importance of having broadband access.”