FCC broadband map shows discrepancies, according to county commissioners
Pennsylvania is in line to receive millions in funding to help expand broadband access to residents in the state.
Before that can happen, Butler County and surrounding areas plan to challenge a broadband coverage map made by the Federal Communications Commission that will determine how much federal funding the state and its counties will receive.
“All together, Pennsylvania could see a billion dollars to build out broadband statewide, which was created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Congress passed,” Butler County Commissioner Kim Geyer said. “There are two buckets of funding. One addresses broadband equity access and deployment, and that’s roughly $42 billion nationally, and another $279 million will come through the American Rescue Plan Act.”
Federal funding is based around the FCC map that shows a majority of the county has access to broadband, but Butler County commissioners explained that while some residents have access to it, the broadband is not necessarily of the highest quality.
“Sometimes that service is weak or unstable,” Geyer said. “You get knocked off or lose service. This map will show areas with service, but the discrepancy comes when there are low signals. We want to make sure areas in our county are stable.”
Geyer explained that the commissioners encourage residents to challenge the incorrect data they see on the map, which is available on the FCC website.
This is important because it will help identify these discrepancies because it could disqualify these locations from receiving funds.
“There is a public outreach tool kit that can be found on the FCC broadband map website,” Geyer said. “Residents can also go on the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development website and they can click on FCC broadband maps there.”
County Commissioner Kevin Boozel said residents can check availability of broadband in their areas through a mobile phone app as well.
“What’s funny is the map challenging is done online, so if you don’t have good internet, it doesn’t really help you,” Boozel said. “There is an app we encourage people to use called TestIT where you can check your in-home service as well as your mobile service. What people are concerned about is quality internet service.”
Commissioners say they hope a partnership with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission will help advocate for challenges to the FCC’s map.
“We thought if we worked together as a region, in contrast to working individually, we would have a better prognosis for receiving federal funding,” Geyer said.
The SPC is committed to keeping the region connected and moving forward and seeks to work with local, state and federal partners to plan for the continued growth of southwestern Pennsylvania.
“We know there is a need,” Boozel said. “It’s hard to pinpoint it, so that’s why we are asking people to do it individually and through the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.”
Townships in the northern end of Butler County are especially hoping to address the broadband issue near the Route 19/Interstate 79 corridor.
“There were multiple municipalities in that corridor, like Lancaster Township, Muddy Creek and Worth, that submitted requests for broadband,” county Commissioner Leslie Osche said. “They gave us project estimates, and we have spoken with Armstrong about the cost of that service, and they are aware that additional funds are coming, as well.”