Gov. Wolf visits PVHS to discuss rural broadband crisis
SPRING MILLS — Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf visited Penns Valley High School on April 25 and spoke to a select group of students and faculty about how the lack of reliable, high-speed internet is impacting their education and everyday lives in the valley.
Wolf took the opportunity to express his intention to push to expand broadband access to all Pennsylvanians.
Earlier in the day Wolf also participated in the PA Priorities Summit at The State Theatre in downtown State College to highlight how an initiative known as Restore Pennsylvania would help address the rural broadband crisis.
“Broadband is as essential in today’s society as electricity and water. Not having broadband limits your ability to do business, find a job, access information and so much more,” said Wolf. “Our lack of broadband access keeps children from accessing online assignments, prevents businesses from marketing themselves and health care facilities can’t share information. We can and should be doing more to tackle this issue and Restore Pennsylvania is the answer.”
Restore Pennsylvania will invest $4.5 billion over the next four years in significant, high-impact projects throughout the commonwealth to help catapult Pennsylvania ahead of every state in the country in terms of technology, development and infrastructure. The massive rebuilding plan funded through a commonsense severance tax will help commonwealth communities address blight, expand broadband access, mitigate the effects of localized flooding and expand green infrastructure.
At PVHS, Wolf was joined by Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe, who highlighted the county’s new initiative to allow a broadband provider to use county 911 towers to provide high speed internet service to the area.
Students shared how lack of high speed internet keeps them from completing classwork in a timely manner. Students shared that they sometime have to use their parents’ work hotspots for internet and wait while a sibling does their homework because the internet can’t handle more than one person on at time.
“Their stories reinforce the assumption that I have been making all along — that this is an essential part of living and learning and working in the 21st century. It is not a matter of would we like to this. We cannot afford to miss out,” said Wolf. “We have to do everything we can to make sure that every one of the 12.8 million Pennsylvanians has access to the internet … robust access.”
At least 8 percent of students in Penns Valley School District have only dial-up internet access at home. Wolf likened the need for high speed internet service in rural areas with the work done to provide electricity to rural areas in the early 20th century.
“Lack of quality internet access means our children miss out on learning opportunities and their parents lack easy access to important school information,” Wolf said. “Our students, parents and our teachers deserve better, and we can provide that through Restore Pennsylvania.”
“If we intend to have our rural students be prepared to learn online, collaborate and create in a truly personalized way, then they need the tools to do so,” said Dr. Brian Griffith, superintendent of Penns Valley School District.
Restore Pennsylvania will provide funding to completely bridge the digital divide in every community in Pennsylvania, making Pennsylvania a better place to work, do business and live, Wolf said. Grants will be available to support installation of infrastructure to bring high speed internet to every corner of the commonwealth. Funding will support every phase of the process from feasibility testing to connection.