Westmoreland County discusses broadband access

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Westmoreland County officials recently held a press conference to discuss plans to bring internet connectivity to unserved communities.

A task force headed by the Westmoreland County Board of Commissioners and the Westmoreland County Planning and Development office worked for a year to identify goals, including digital equity, economic growth, health and safety, and workforce development.

Field crews surveyed nearly 4,000 addresses throughout that county for a data collection and feasibility study. The county suspected the households had poor internet access. Only 4 percent of area residents and businesses have high-speed fiber optic cable, while 60 percent have outdated or non-existent broadband infrastructure.

The county will use this research to seek federal funds dedicated to improving broadband access.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly created the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority in the Act 96 of 2021. The authority will use the information on underserved communities to allocate funding where it is needed.

Westmoreland state House members applauded the press conference.

“Broadband infrastructure is every bit as critical to our underserved communities and our regional economy as our utilities and transportation infrastructure,” Rep. Leslie Rossi (R-Westmoreland) said. “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.”