HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today joined with the Center for Rural Pennsylvania to encourage consumers, businesses, and community organizations to participate in a new broadband speed test. This year-long initiative is part of a focused “crowdsource” effort to map the state’s “digital divide.”
“Taking the #BroadbandTest is quick and easy: a few clicks of the keyboard or mouse and about 30 seconds of your time,” said PUC Commissioner Norman J. Kennard. “The data from these tests will help us generate a ‘real-world’ picture of internet access speeds across Pennsylvania and help identify the areas of greatest need.
“Working together, we anticipate more than 1 million tests from Pennsylvania residents as a part of this crowdsourced broadband speed map – every test run helps drive this research forward. The better our maps, the clearer our understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing our communities, and the better equipped we will be to identify the necessary resources to move Pennsylvania forward.
“I commend the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for substantially advancing the ball and creating this exciting opportunity to collect real-world data on the actual state of broadband availability and speeds across the Commonwealth. Once we know where the holes are, we can directly target the digital divide.”
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is sponsoring the research by the Pennsylvania State University, who are using the data to analyze and assess broadband availability across the state.
Barry Denk, director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania commented, “This project is a perfect example of the practical, results-oriented research the Center undertakes to provide meaningful, real-time information to the PA General Assembly and others in state government as critical public policies are debated.”
Those interested in helping this broadband mapping effort should visit the testing website at: http://broadbandtest.us/. The speed test takes approximately 30 seconds and automatically transmits data to researchers. It also displays a summary of the results for participants. These tests do not collect personal identifying information.
The research is being led by Professor Sascha Meinrath, Director, X-Lab and Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at Penn State University.
“Key decision-makers need accurate and up-to-date information on the actual state of broadband connectivity. By bringing together a consortium of top network researchers, this initiative provides the most comprehensive mapping effort ever undertaken in Pennsylvania. In addition, our work implements the scientific best practices necessary to continue documenting on-the-ground broadband realities across the Commonwealth,” stated project director, Sascha Meinrath.
“For far too long, advertised broadband speeds and availability have been treated as ground truth, resulting in persistent discrepancies that have stymied efforts to address the economic and social detriments faced by communities on the wrong side of the digital divide. Our research empowers Pennsylvania officials and the general public with accurate information about the current state of broadband connectivity, both across the Commonwealth and within our own communities.”
The PUC has repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of lost federal broadband funding fueling a growing economic divide between communities and businesses that have access to higher internet speeds, and those that do not. Additionally, the Commission has supported the launch of a new statewide broadband investment incentive program, and has launched a rulemaking process intended to more quickly resolve disputes over access to utility poles, which is a key issue for enhanced broadband deployment.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
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