High-speed internet coming to underserved areas in Northumberland, Union

Jul. 27—WATSONTOWN — A company specializing in providing high speed internet to underserved rural areas, rolled out its Northern Northumberland County plans Wednesday during a meeting at the Watson Inn. The event was attended by Valley lawmakers and local business stakeholders.

For years, the goal of serving rural areas with high speed access has been a promise unfulfilled. But that's where Kinetic by Windstream has found its niche, said Kinetic's Area President, Susan Schraibman.

Especially with COVID, Schraibman said, "that accentuated the need dramatically in rural America. Our company is very committed to making the investment to be able to bring high speed to the rural areas."

Among the speakers at the ceremonial ribbon cutting on Wednesday was Brandon Peters, Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority. "We were one of 19 states to receive over $1.2 billion to address underserved areas across the state. We are seeking to close the digital divide. This funding, it is a once in a generational investment," he said.

Having access to broadband internet "means so much," said Pa. State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-23, Williamsport. "Everything we do depends on high speed broadband, whether health care or just daily living. Farmers depend on it, downloading crop information. It helps small businesses with the ability to market their products."

State Sen. Lynda Schlegel-Culver, R-27, Sunbury, state Rep. Jamie Flick, R-83, Williamsport, and Union County Commissioner Stacy Richards all agreed that bringing high speed service to rural Pa. has been long overdue in Watsontown and surrounding areas. But finally, the opportunity to access it is here.

As a business, Kinetic by Windstream has spent "more than $2 billion expanding fiber across our footprint," she said. "We primarily service rural communities."

High speed fiber optics is expensive, so besides their own investments, Schraibman said, "we are definitely partnering with counties and cities, where state and federal matching grant money is available. There is just so many funds out there. We want to make sure these funds are used effectively."

Kinetic by Windstream a telecommunications company, is an incumbent phone and broadband service provider. They service 18 states. In the Valley and vicinity, they already service northern Northumberland, parts of Union and Lycoming counties.

"We have Watsontown, Muncy, Montgomery and Turbotville. In Pennsylvania alone, we have over 160,000 customers that are now eligible for gig services," she said.

Kinetic can offers up to 8 gigabytes.

"Most people don't need 1 gig, let alone 8 gigs, so we are designing a network for people's future needs," Schraibman said.

Right now, the company is focused on those communities where they are the incumbent provider.

"Specifically, in the Watsontown area, we are going to be expanding our fiber reach to 2,600 homes and businesses," she said.

Most of who they will service, Schraibman said, will be residential customers. They now also do the install, where a technician will come into a home, install a router, and find out where the residents need to use the WiFi.

Kinetic does not provide content, but, said Schraibman, they can help customers connect with various streaming services such as YouTube TV.