The trillion dollars infrastructure bill passed by Congress last month includes $ 65 billion to provide better Internet access to rural and low-income communities.
Pennsylvanians see the Internet as a necessity for their economic future.
In Huntingdon County, Internet access problems led to the founding of the Rural broadband cooperative, a small nonprofit organization that built a radio tower on a nearby mountain to provide wireless Internet service to the central region of Pennsylvania.
Henry McCreary, general manager of the Rural Broadband Cooperative, said based on anecdotes from clients, that the infrastructure bill could help families with students who have struggled to connect during COVID.
âMom had to drive the kids 15 miles every day to Grandma’s house so the kids could access the internet for homework, which was really a burden on them for many reasons,â he said. McCreary explained.
The cooperative now has up to 250 clients and is growing. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide Pennsylvania with approximately $ 100 million over the next five years to increase broadband connectivity in the Commonwealth. It is estimated that 394,000 Pennsylvanians do not have Internet coverage.
In Juniata County, 26% of households do not have broadband access, according to US census data.
Vince Giordano, director of the Juniata County Library, said many residents depend on them to get online. He said that so far this year, the library’s mobile hotspots have been used about 250 times. Giordano argued that the widespread use of broadband in Juniata County is vital for its future.
âPennsylvania is a great state. And I think if rural areas want to excel, they need the Internet, âsaid Giordano. âAnd if they don’t excel, people will leave. Even just having a good internet connection can allow people to work from home and work remotely. But if people don’t have the Internet, they can’t really do it.
The population of Juniata County fell by around eleven hundred people between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. census data. Thanks to the infrastructure package, 23% of Pennsylvanians will be eligible for Affordable connectivity program, which will help low-income families pay for Internet access.