Congressman hosts roundtable on rural broadband

Congressman Tom Marino asks participants of the Aug. 2 roundtable for their opinion about the next step needed to take broadband services to the “last mile” of rural areas.

The shortcomings of rural residents access to broadband garnered attention throughout the year, from the national level to the county.

On April 5, state Sen. Eugene Yaw chaired a forum at the Penn Wells Hotel in Wellsboro to hear testimony from broadband company representatives and those needing better services.

The forum, held by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, invited state officials and representative to listen and ask questions of those testifying.

In August, Congressman Tom Marino hosted a roundtable on expanding broadband connectivity in rural pennsylvania. The roundtable was held at Mansfield University.

The discussion focused on how to facilitate expanded broadband connectivity in rural Pennsylvania. Attending were representatives from education, telecom, healthcare and agriculture, along with federal and state officials.

According to participants, broadband access is essential to growing the economy, supporting agricultural business, expanding educational opportunities for children, increasing access to modern healthcare, and improving the safety of communities.

More than 800,000 Pennsylvanians still lack access to reliable, high speed internet; more than 520,000 of those live in rural areas.

The discussion focuses on how to achieve access for all. Some support a public-private partnership to achieve this access. Others advocate for a combination of wired and hybrid solutions, satellite, microwave and using existing infrastructure for providers.

Rural users testified that Internet service is slow and expensive,.

The Federal Communications Commission estimated a 1-30 Mpbs network costs about $50 billion while a 100 Mpbs network costs about $350 billion.

Last year, the FCC gave about $4.5 billion to enhance access and Pennsylvania dispensed about $34 million. At that rate, providing the same level of service to all residents will take 12 to 87 years, said those at the hearing.

Those attending also urged legislators to look not only to meeting today’s needs, but anticipating future requirements when building or funding the expansion.