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Affordable, reliable broadband service is focus of lawmakers

Hearing held in Susquehanna County

DIMOCK TOWNSHIP, SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - It's a problem that has been plaguing parts of Pennsylvania for years, the lack of quality broadband service.

The issue has been especially bad in the northern tier and Thursday state lawmakers focused on what they can do by having a hearing in Susquehanna County.

The House Majority Policy Committee hearing took place on the campus of the Elk Lake School District.

"Quality, reliable broadband is a basic necessity," Rep. Jonathan Fritz of Wayne and Susquehanna Counties said.

State lawmakers in the northern tier say it's one of the biggest complaints they get, the lack of reliable and affordable broadband service.

"We have needs. We have aspirations that other parts of this great commonwealth do not have so we need to focus on our situation!" Rep. Karen Boback of Wyoming and Luzerne Counties said.

Lawmakers heard from a number of professionals Thursday ranging from healthcare providers who say tele-medicine is basically not an option here to county commissioners who say businesses are skipping them over.

"If we can't compete, we can't have sustainable thriving communities," Wayne County Commissioner Joseph Adams said.

There were also personal stories.

Chris Brown of Bradford County has a terminally ill daughter who relies on a robot to go to school.

He fears companies are too focused on making money. 

"When your just focused on investment and return on investment and money you lose the human side," Chris Brown of Sugar Run said.

"As a commonwealth, we might have to offer the tax credits," Rep. Mike Peifer of Pike and Wayne Counties suggested at the hearing.

In an effort to find solutions, representatives from Verizon and the Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania were also brought in to testify.

They were questioned about what they need to improve services.

"We don't have a cash cow in our back pocket that we can go out and do that funding," Brian Barno of the Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania said.

The hearing ended on a positive, optimistic tone.

A Microsoft representative from New York testified that his company is looking to partner with others to connect two million rural Americans to reliable broadband over the next four years.

"We think of it as what are the opportunities that people are missing out on?" Jay Summerson of the Microsoft Corporation said.

 

Last month, Governor Tom Wolf announced the creation of a new office dedicated to making sure every person in Pennsylvania has access to high-speed internet.

 


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