Pennsylvania is Not a ‘Happy Valley’ For Rural Coverage

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Last week, a recently updated FCC report was criticized for overstating the availability of internet service. Now, Penn State University has released a study on behalf of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania that shows the digital divide in rural parts of the state is widening rather than closing, according to TribLive.com.

The “Broadband Availability and Access in Rural Pennsylvania” study found there isn’t a single county where at least 50 percent of the population received broadband connectivity. 

Additionally, the study found that while the Commission notes that more than 800,000 Pennsylvania residents do not have access to broadband connectivity, that number downplays the real digital divide across the state.

FCC maps rely on self-reported data by ISPs, while the Penn State research team conducted its study in 2018 by collecting more than 11 million broadband speed tests across the state. It found that median speeds did not meet the FCC’s criteria to qualify as a broadband connection, according to TribLive.com.  

“The take-home message from these analyses is this: It appears that official broadband maps are becoming less accurate over time — particularly those for rural areas — and the methodology used by the FCC not only overstates broadband speeds and availability but also shows results that are less and less accurate year after year,” the study said.

In response to the study, Gov. Tom Wolf said, “Broadband is as essential in today’s society as electricity. Not having broadband limits your ability to do business, find a job, access information, and so much more. Our lack of broadband access keeps children from accessing online assignments and homework and deters businesses from moving to our state.”

Wolf introduced a Restore Pennsylvania initiative to “bridge the digital divide” in communities across the state, notes TribLive.com.

June 7, 2019

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