Board members of the Mill Creek Broadband Cooperative are getting ever closer to offering internet service to customers in Mill Creek Hollow, all while they are looking to offer internet service in other communities.
Jason Weaver, vice president of the cooperative, said the facilities are built and a tower has officially been acquired, and they hope to have service for Mill Creek Hollow residents, as a start, by the end of April or beginning of May.
“The tower will probably be set in the next couple of weeks,” Weaver said, adding they are moving a tower they purchased from the Piney Ridge area and will be moving it to a location atop Stone Mountain in Brady Township.
“We have all of the equipment to power the tower, but we just need to get the equipment for atop the tower,” he said. “The equipment (atop the tower) will be what will service internet to the local communities.”
Dwight Rittenhouse, a cooperative board member, said a bunker to help power the tower has been installed and the bunker itself is now fully installed and underground.
“We’ve purchased solar panels to charge the batteries, a battery bank to store the energy and backup generators,” Rittenhouse said. “Now, we just need to transmit the equipment and tower to the tower site.”
What is needed the most now is founding members to invest money and sweat equity to get them over the hump to giving internet service to area residents.
A founding member, if they would contribute $1,500 that would eventually be paid back to them, plus sweat equity, will get priority service as well as free installation and other perks.
The $1,500 would be returned to the founding member in a period of time worked out between the cooperative and the member.
A member who wishes to invest, but unable to provide sweat equity, can contribute a $3,000 investment, which would be considered a loan that would be returned, with interest, in a period of time that would be worked out between the cooperative member and the board.
“We’ve raised $33,000 from founding membership, and we’re looking for additional founding members to contribute around $20,000,” said Weaver. “We’re clawing away at money, and every time we get any money, we do what we can to get it closer to that date where we can turn it on. This is as close as it’s ever been.
“So far, everything we have is paid for, we own it, we need working capital, more money to finalize the equipment that will transmit the internet to members,” said Weaver.
Weaver said the board members of Rural Broadband Cooperative, the larger umbrella in which the Mill Creek Broadband Cooperative is under, recently held a meeting in the McAlevys Fort area, which drew a lot of interest from residents in that area.
There will also be a meeting held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Belleville Community Building, 95 N. Penn St., Belleville, where the Mifflin County Commissioners will be in attendance.
“Once we get equipment on top of the tower and provide service, we’ve surveyed the Big Valley area, and I think once we flip the switch on our service, we could get 300 to 400 (regular members) out of this single night,” said Weaver.
Weaver also is part of the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission broadband task force, which has helped the group get a lot of traction in the six-county area that SAP&DC serves and beyond.
“I know (the task force) is going to meet with the state Department of Community and Economic Development to talk about different financing options,” he said. “It’s been a good partnership for both sides,” he said.
Overall, as they’re working to get started in Mill Creek, McAlevys Fort and Big Valley, they’re also scoping out other areas as well.
“We have our eyes set on locations in the Mount Union area, but we’re not focusing on the borough,” said Weaver. “We’re looking more toward the Kistler, Silverford Heights and Newton Hamilton areas as well Hares Valley and Smith Valley in the Mapleton area. We pretty much want to move ahead with the Route 655 corridor.”
Weaver also said they want to emphasize they hope to provide internet service to under served areas of Huntingdon, so this is limited to those who have only one for internet service.
“We are not focused on areas that already have incumbents,” he said. “Our core philosophy is to serve the areas that are under served, or those who don’t a choice for internet service.”