Pennsylvania Lawmakers Urge FCC to Boost Rural Broadband

A letter signed by 42 state legislators called on Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai finalize agency rules around rural Internet access.

by J.D. Prose, Beaver County Times / March 2, 2018

(TNS) — Two Beaver County state legislators have signed onto a bipartisan letter to the Federal Communications Commission's chairman urging him to finalize rules ensuring broadband internet access for rural Pennsylvania residents.

State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-46, Carroll Township, Washington County, and state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-16, Ambridge, and 40 colleagues sent the letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking him to back a rule allowing at least three "white space" channels in every market be designated for broadband internet use.

"If you do so, we believe this will lead the private sector and companies like Microsoft to work on implementing new technologies that have the ability to transform rural communities with affordable and reliable broadband," the legislators wrote.

Rural broadband access would "transform education, empower workers and create a broader market for business in rural parts of Pennsylvania and around the country," the legislators told Pai.

"It is economically and educationally imperative," they said, "that you act on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and millions of citizens of the United States so that they, too, have access to the same opportunities that this technology provides to the rest of the country."

In a statement on the letter, state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene County, reiterated the benefits broadband access would have on rural Pennsylvanians.

"By improving the technological advances available in rural communities, people will be better equipped with more educational and economic opportunities," she said.

Snyder has fought for years to improve internet speed and access in the state's rural areas, citing her own issues using the internet on her Greene County property.

Following a House Consumer Affairs Committee hearing in Waynesburg in August 2016, Snyder introduced a bill to require higher download and upload speeds in rural areas. That bill never moved out of the Consumer Affairs Committee.

Last July, Snyder and state Rep. Kristin Hill, R-York County, introduced House Bill 1642 to expand the availability of high-speed broadband service in "underserved and unserved areas" of the state. The two legislators circulated a co-sponsor memo that painted an unsettling picture of the impact slow internet service has on rural students.

"In these locations one can often arrive at schools 30 minutes before the start of the school day and observe parents in their idling cars while their children feverishly work to complete their computer homework assignments using the school Wi-Fi," the memo said, "because high-speed broadband internet is unavailable in their residential areas."

House Bill 1642 remains before the State Government Committee.

©2018 the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.