WESTMORELAND – At a press conference hosted by Westmoreland County officials, plans to bring internet connectivity to unserved communities were heralded by Westmoreland House members.
“In a lot of ways, digital communication is a great equalizer for those who live in rural communities and have not yet had a seat at the table on this topic,” said Rep. Eric Davanzo (R-Westmoreland), who serves on the Westmoreland County Broadband Task Force. “I am glad to see that these folks are being prioritized.”
“In today’s world, internet connectivity is an essential part of the work or school day,” said Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), majority caucus chairman. “I applaud Westmoreland County’s robust plan that clearly recognizes how important our digital infrastructure is to our region’s economic growth.”
Headed by the Westmoreland County Board of Commissioners and the Westmoreland County Planning and Development office for the past year, a task force was assembled and identified goals such as economic growth, digital equity, workforce development, and health and safety.
During a Data Collection and Feasibility Study, field crews surveyed nearly 4,000 addresses throughout Westmoreland County that were suspected or reported to have poor internet access. Of the addresses, it was revealed that 60% of area residents and businesses have outdated or non-existent broadband infrastructure and only 4% have high-speed fiber optic cable.
Having this research completed and having unserved areas identified will better position Westmoreland County to seek federal funds dedicated to improving broadband access. The General Assembly passed Act 96 of 2021
to create the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, which will use this kind of information to drive money where it is most needed.
“It is great to see all levels of government working together on this issue,” said Rep. Eric Nelson (R-Westmoreland). “Employers need to compete at the new pace of business and families need high speed internet access for everything from homework to home office. This is a win win for our region.”
“Broadband infrastructure is every bit as critical to our underserved communities and our regional economy as our utilities and transportation infrastructure,” said Rep. Leslie Rossi (R-Westmoreland). “It’s long past time to get our local governments, schools, businesses and medical facilities the high-speed internet access they need to best serve our citizens, students, customers and patients.”
“Having access to broadband has become as essential as clean water and electricity,” said Rep. Abby Major (R-Armstrong/Westmoreland). “The pandemic showed us how vital high-speed internet is to daily life. I’m pleased to work with county officials to improve internet access and help to eliminate technological barriers to employment and education.”
“Having reliable access to the internet is an important part of modern education,” said Rep. Jill Cooper (R-Westmoreland). “This is a quality-of-life issue for many Westmoreland families whose children often find themselves at a disadvantage because their access to the internet is currently subpar.”
Westmoreland County Delegation
Pennsylvania House of Representatives