Report: FCC overstates broadband availability in Pa., FCC disagrees

The report found median speeds for most of the state didn’t meet the definition for broadband

  • Min Xian, WPSU

(Undated) — A new report released on Monday by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania says the Federal Communications Commission overstates broadband internet availability and access across Pennsylvania.

The new report, led by Penn State professor Sascha Meinrath and seven researchers from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, New America and the X-Lab, collected more than 11 million speed tests from users in Pennsylvania in the past year and utilized an additional 15 million archived speed tests.

The report found that median speeds for most of the state didn’t meet the definition for broadband, which the FCC defines as download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.

Meinrath believes the disconnect between speeds found by his study and by the FCC is because the FCC uses self-reported data from Internet Service Providers.

“What we’ve built is a platform to look at what are the actual speeds that people are receiving on the ground,” Meinrath said at a press conference at the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg.

“And you see [from FCC data] that a hundred percent of Pennsylvania is supposedly covered by broadband connectivity,” Meinrath said. “Well, I can tell you, we could drive in whatever direction you choose for about five minutes and prove that that is not the case.”

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania report also says there are no counties in Pennsylvania where at least half the population receives broadband connection, and that speeds are “substantially slower” in rural counties compared to urban counterparts.

The FCC disagrees with the study’s findings. Mark Wigfield, a spokesperson for the agency, says the agency’s latest report finds broadband is available to 95% of Pennsylvanians, and that Meinrath’s study doesn’t consider the fact that many consumers don’t purchase the highest available speeds.

According to the latest FCC estimates, more than 600,000 Pennsylvanians don’t have access to broadband. Wigfield said the FCC works hard at reaching the goal of connecting the whole nation through broadband internet.

But Republican State Senator Gene Yaw, who chairs the Board of Directors for the Center, said, from this new report, the number “is probably far, far greater than that.”

The report calls for infrastructure upgrades specifically in rural areas and for a new standard to collect data in broadband speeds not only in Pennsylvania, but across the nation.

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