Lancaster-based Upward Broadband LLC will receive nearly $1.5 million in a grant through the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority’s federally funded Broadband Infrastructure Program to expand high-speed internet access in Lebanon County.

The funds are part of a $204 million round that saw 53 projects across 42 counties (PDF) partially funded by the government to bring broadband access to over 100,000 Pennsylvanians, according to a news release from the broadband authority.

“Without reliable, high-speed internet access, people of all ages cannot succeed to their full capacities,” said state Senator Chris Gebhard (R-48) in a press release on the awards. “Students’ learning is limited – particularly when they need to do so remotely – and employers cannot operate in a manner customers have come to expect.

“This grant will go a long way to resolving our internet limitations.”

Upward Broadband will receive $1,476,288, or 75% of the $1,968,384 project it has planned to expand access in Lebanon County and parts of Dauphin County.

Upward Broadband CEO and owner Tim Beiler said the company submitted a few applications for consideration, but the Lebanon Valley pitch was the only one to be funded.

Beiler said the considerations when identifying projects include whether a deployment is feasible and what type of funding would be needed.

“One of the main things we look for is having a significant number of locations homes and businesses that don’t have access to broadband,” he said.

Beiler said that the company also performs a technical analysis of whether its fixed wireless internet technology can service a given area. He said that in the Lebanon Valley, there are a significant number of unserved and underserved locations.

The broadband authority evaluated projects based on scoring criteria that looked at the size and scope of the unserved or underserved communities, the ability of applicants to successfully deploy high-speed broadband service, and more.

Six tower locations are included, along the ridges on other side of the Lebanon Valley. For the most part, Upward Broadband will use existing infrastructure through colocation agreements, but it does plan to construct one new tower as part of the expansion. Beiler said that he expects the service to cover a large part of the county and parts of nearby Dauphin County when complete.

Contracts with the state broadband authority will be finalized over the next few months. Once the award is in place, Beiler said he thinks at least parts of the network will be live within six to nine months.

His best prediction is that early- to mid-2025, county residents will start seeing service available, and it could be sooner than that.

Upward Broadband does not currently have any customers in Lebanon County. Their closest existing network is in the northern part of Lancaster County. The company also provides service in Centre, Chester, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, and Mifflin counties, serving 1,700 customers across existing networks.

Beiler said he hopes to see a significant number of customers served with the Lebanon expansion; optimistically over 500.

The blue dots represent unserved and underserved locations which could be served by Upward Broadband as part of this project. The company says that it will be able to serve 1,400 new locations in the Lebanon and Dauphin County areas within the next two and a half years. (Provided graphic)

The Lebanon network will be set up with state-of-the-art equipment that wasn’t available a few years ago, Beiler said, and compared to the company’s existing networks, he expects it to offer higher throughput, higher speed, and more tolerance for obstructions like trees.

The broadband authority requires regular progress reports from grantees and adherence to specific program guidelines. All funds must be used by the end of 2026, and the authority has the ability to recoup any unused or misused funds.

“The PBDA has worked hard to ensure Pennsylvania receives the funding we need to address access and connectivity issues impacting communities across the Commonwealth – and today’s allocation of $204 million in awards is a significant step forward in getting more Pennsylvanians connected to high-speed, affordable internet,” said PBDA executive director Brandon Carson in a statement. “As Pennsylvanians increasingly rely on broadband to live healthy and productive lives, expanding access to the internet is essential to creating opportunity for folks all across our Commonwealth.

“These projects will leverage historic federal funding and private investment to connect communities to the internet – and the PBDA will continue working to make this a reality for even more Pennsylvanians.” 

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