Broadband expansion vital catch-up tool in region’s rural areas

The rural areas of our region – which are plentiful – face many disadvantages in their quest for economic development opportunity and their ability to meet the quality of life standards expected in 2018.

Among their biggest hurdles is the lack of high-speed internet.

The reality today is that people expect high-speed internet in their homes and consider it an integral part of their lifestyle. And increasingly, people do some or part of their professional work out of their homes and high-speed internet is essential to them.

If an area does not have that, they are less likely to want to live there and almost certainly will not live there if it puts them at a professional disadvantage.

In our region, the lack of broadband internet capability is especially palpable in the areas north of Williamsport.

Hopefully, that’s about to change dramatically.

State officials recently announced the release of $1.5 million in funding for a rural broadband expansion project for Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, a primary utility provider in the Northern Tier.

The planned project will provide broadband to more than 1,300 customers in portions of Potter County.

Many people in Potter County cannot currently work from home because their internet is too costly, too slow or both. And while they may choose to live in that beautiful section of Pennsylvania, they nevertheless are at a quality of life disadvantage when it comes to modern conveniences.

Craig Eccher, president and CEO of Tri-County Rural Electric, aptly compared the six-year project and laying of 2,700 miles of fiber-delivering high-speed internet to connecting electricity in the 1930s.

We hope the project is successful and we hope there are more to come.

Adequate broadband internet service is supposed to be part of the normal utilities menu that all people have in 2018. Those without it are at an economic, educational, health care access and quality of life disadvantage.

And all to often, it is the people in the rural areas who get put at the disadvantage.