2018-04-14 / Front Page

Broadband ‘not a luxury’


Among speakers emphasizing the need for high-speed internet service in the region were, from left, Terri Dennison, executive director of the Pa. Route 6 Alliance; Lori Copp, Visit Potter Tioga; and d Szymanik, owner of the Susuehannock Lodge bed and breakfast near Denton Hill State Park. Among speakers emphasizing the need for high-speed internet service in the region were, from left, Terri Dennison, executive director of the Pa. Route 6 Alliance; Lori Copp, Visit Potter Tioga; and d Szymanik, owner of the Susuehannock Lodge bed and breakfast near Denton Hill State Park. Northcentral Pennsylvania finds itself on the wrong side of the “digital divide,” and is turning to the state government to help.

Consequences of large pockets of residents lacking highspeed internet service in a society that increasingly depends on it were spelled out last week during a meeting in Wellsboro, hosted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

After more than a dozen speakers made their case, the center’s chairman, State Senator Gene Yaw, said he agreed that the state government needs to step up its efforts to support broadband expansion as soon as possible.

Former Galeton Area School Superintendent Brenda Freeman presented some of the most compelling testimony. She now serves as superintendent of the Wellsboro Area School District and has grown increasingly concerned about students becoming disenfranchised.

Nearly one-third of the homes in that district do not have access to high-speed internet service, which is becoming a required tool for homework and other learning exercises.

Lori Copp, executive director of the regional tourist promotion agency, Visit Potter/Tioga, said lack of broadband service is hampering lodging facilities that depend on visitors for a major portion of their revenue.

Tioga County’s Gerald Port pointed out that high-speed internet service is becoming increasingly important to the region’s farmers, who are already by shrinking profit margins.

Also testifying were Craig Eccher, president and CEO of Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, which is work­ing on a plan to complement its electrical service for members with broadband; and representatives from telecommunications com­panies, rural development organizations, health care providers, and other inter­ests.

Rep. Martin Causer agreed with Senator Yaw that the testimony was compelling.

“Broadband is not a luxury,” he said after the hearing. “It is a necessity as important to our communi­ties as water, sewer and other forms of infrastructure . . . It is encouraging to see the high level of attention being focused on the limitations of not being fully connected on our economy, health care and education opportunities.”

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