The Venango Chamber partnered with Grow PA on January 14 to host a gathering focused on “Statewide Strategies to Get Connected” to discuss regional and statewide strategies for expanding broadband access.
There was little need to state the obvious: Pennsylvania continues to have large areas with little or no access to broadband. Rural counties without access often have many homes that, even if served by a provider, do not have acceptable speeds of transmission. There also appears to be pricing disparity between communities.
Grow PA brings leaders from across the state together to discuss regional and statewide strategies for expanding broadband access. The virtual gathering in January, moderated by Chamber President Susan Williams, included an economic overview by Dana Kubiak, Vice President and Senior Portfolio Advisor at F.N.B. Wealth Management; an update of regional broadband efforts by Jill Foy, Executive Director at Northwest Commission and Venango Co. Commissioner Chip Abramovic; and legislative updates by State Rep. Donna Oberlander.
Each speaker demonstrated that there are tremendous resources of time, attention, and funding tapped for broadband expansion. But is it enough? The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the most underserved communities and the need to speed up the pace developing robust networks and connecting every home and business.
Also included in the gathering was Sascha Meinrath, Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at Penn State. Sascha offered suggestions for improving PA’s broadband infrastructure, including using data that he and others have been collecting about gaps in services. He also stressed the importance of collaboration across communities and regions, sharing that internet providers do not stop and start at county borders. Sascha remarked that conversations like this Grow PA gathering are a great step forward.
Early feedback from many of the over 100 attendees suggested there is a real interest from legislators, educators, and chambers of commerce in continuing the conversation and developing partnership towards broadband advancement.
View the recording of “Statewide Strategies to Get Connected,” and find resources at: venangochamber.org/grow-pa.
This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s February 2021 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.