Pennsylvania should adopt federal broadband definition |


According to the state of Pennsylvania, an internet connection of 1.5 megabits per second qualifies as “broadband.” That 30-year-old standard is barely fast enough to perform essential tasks, like making Google searches and reading this newspaper’s editorials. Streaming video or making a video call over 1.5 mbps internet would be like trying to suck a milkshake through a coffee stirrer.

The federal broadband standard is 25 mbps, or 17 times the state standard. With that you can catch the latest offerings from Netflix and Hulu and, more importantly for economic development, participate in video meetings and run corporate software. It’s the kind of internet that opens up jobs for rural and small-town America.

The state’s archaic definition of broadband matters because by statute, private telecom companies have to provide broadband to every home in the state. They may get a captive market without producing an adequate product. Counting 1.5 mbps as broadband is like setting the minimum wage at 42 cents.

As we discussed in April, the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission recently reported about 36,000 homes and 15,000 businesses in the 10-county region around Pittsburgh don’t have access to federal-standard 25 mbps internet. Whole swaths of the region can’t fully participate in the 21st-century economy.

The solution is simple: Pennsylvania should adopt the Federal Communication Commission’s 25 mbps broadband standard. This will ensure that the purpose of the state’s 1993 internet law will again be fulfilled.

Back then, 1.5 mbps was lightning quick, and telecom companies protested being saddled with the obligation to provide it across the state. So the state enticed them with loosened regulations. But 30 years later, the deal no longer looks so good for the state: The old broadband standard is as slow as the sloth at the National Aviary, and the companies still reap the rewards of scaled-back regulation. It’s time for them to hold up their end of the bargain once again, for the good of the people of the commonwealth.

Broadband access — real broadband access — is a matter of economic justice for people already living in rural and small-town Pennsylvania. But it also makes it possible for those who enjoy working remotely to consider moving to those places.

Raising the broadband standard, then, is a chance for both parties to do what they claim to desire: to help the forgotten parts of Pennsylvania not just to survive, but to thrive once again.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | AP

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