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Civic, economic life can improve with expanded broadband internet

We are heartened by efforts to expand access to internet broadband service in rural Northcentral Pennsylvania.

We are talking about the $2.5 million grant recently awareded to the SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) on behalf of four counties, including Clinton, Lycoming, Union and Northumberland Counties.

The investment, if fully successfully, should provide broadband access to more than 1,500 homes, including over 20 businesses.

Among them are 360 homes and seven businesses will be reached in the area east of Loganton and Bucktail Medical Center in Renovo comprising 14 miles of fiber in a 7-mile area.

In Lycoming County, 190 homes and five businesses are to be reached in Moreland Township comprising 16 miles of fiber in a 7-mile area.

The grant will supplement $4 million of SEDA-COG’s revolving loan funds.

The selected internet service provider will match these funds with a $1.5 million of private investment.

That’s key … who will get the contract(s) and how much they invest to get the new business.

Of course, new access likely means new towers so let’s hope good locations are chosen that do not spoil the landscape.

SEDA-COG will provide funding through reimbursable grants and low-interest loans to incentivize an internet service provider to expand internet service into unserved and underserved rural regions of the four counties where traditional buildout is otherwise not economically feasible.

Who can argue against the need for Bucketail Medical Center in mountainous South Renovo in Western Clinton County to gain broadband internet access?

In that case, broadband access could be life-saving.

High-speed internet can break down the barriers of distance and time, allowing residents of rural areas to participate in economic and civic life far beyond their geographic region, studies show.

Approximately 25 million Americans lack high-speed internet (or “broadband”) access, with 96% of them living in rural areas.

But expand to areas that want it … and that need it.

And the purchase and use of broadband should always be a choice, not a requirement.

With expanded internet comes profit for providers … profit gained through grant money that is, essentially, derived from public taxes.

So with this investment should come regulatory oversight.

Infrastructure oversight.

It’s only fair … and right.

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