Pennsylvania is Challenging an FCC Map in Hopes of Getting More Funding to Upgrade Broadband in Rural Areas

Looking down Memorial Highway (Route 662) in Oley Township, with a line of utility poles running along farm fields near Fisher's Produce in July 2021. (Reading Eagle Photo via Getty Images/Ben Hasty)

By Ashley Adams

February 21, 2023

The state Broadband Development Authority submitted thousands of locations as part of a bulk challenge to the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband map last month. The data on the map will be used to determine the commonwealth’s portion of a nationwide broadband funding allocation.

If you’re in rural Pennsylvania, you know the struggle with Wi-Fi: You can get service in your living room, but not the bedroom. If the neighbor’s cow farts in the wrong direction, the gust of wind could knock out your service completely. 

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) most recent broadband deployment reports, about 640,000 to 800,000 (5%) of Pennsylvanians are “unserved” and lack access to high-speed broadband — what most service providers refer to as high-speed internet. The FCC standard for reliable high-speed internet is 25 megabits per second for downloading files and 3 megabits per second for uploading.

The FCC recently released its National Broadband Map which displays broadband serviceable locations across the nation where fixed internet is serviceable and can be installed. Or, as in the case of the far northwestern part of Pennsylvania, where it’s not available.

Wayne County has the worst broadband coverage; about 58.8% of residents do not have reliable internet service, according to BroadbandNow. Fulton follows with 53.4% of residents not having reliable internet, Sullivan with 35.2%, and Susquehanna with 23.3%.

Allentown in Lehigh County ranks first in the state for best combination of broadband speed, coverage, and price, followed by Bethlehem, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.

Brandon Carson, executive director of the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, said the state submitted around 35,000 locations last month as part of a bulk challenge to the FCC map’s accuracy. The broadband authority’s challenges included survey information gathered in counties throughout the state. 

Counties can challenge either the address locations shown on the FCC map or the availability of broadband indicated at each site, Carson said. The location challenges will be revised by the FCC so the map can be updated accordingly.

Carson said the map will be continuously updated, but this bulk challenge submission is the best opportunity for the commonwealth to get its fair share of $42.45 billion in federal money from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program (BEAD), which was established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Distribution of the money by the National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Administration is scheduled to begin in June, with each state getting a minimum of $100 million. Grants will be awarded to states with the poorest access to the Internet first, Carson said.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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