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Host: Scott LaMar

Rural Broadband / Spotted Lanternfly

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Nov 27, 2017 8:00 PM
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On the Tuesday November 28th, 2017 edition of WITF's Smart Talk:

In 2011, the FCC initiated the 'Connect America Fund' - an effort to provide broadband internet access for all Americans - including those in the most rural regions.  This was an attempt to bridge what is being referred to as the "digital divide" - the chasm between those who can use the internet for education, commerce or entertainment and those without that access.

The Connect America Fund would earmark monies from service fees paid on telephone bills and subsidize communication companies for infrastructural upgrades in rural and low-income communities. While most internet providers in Pennsylvania accepted the funds under the terms, Verizon declined the funding. This decision from Verizon is locking out $140 million for broadband upgrades in Pennsylvania.

800,000 Pennsylvanians lack high-speed internet access; twenty percent of those live in rural areas.  The $140 million investment in the state's broadband delivery system could provide access for more than 60,000 residents.  The state must act soon or those funds will be auctioned off to other states in 2018.

"The window of opportunity is rapidly closing," says Pennsylvania Utility Commission spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen.  "The money was originally earmarked for Pennsylvania." 

"Collectively, residents and businesses in nearly every county face the prospect of losing federal financial support for high speed internet deployment," said PUC Commissioner David W. Sweet.

On Tuesday's Smart Talk, we'll discuss the need for high-speed internet access, how communities could get left behind without it and what is being done to insure all Pennsylvanians have high-speed internet access with Steve Samara, president of the Pennsylvania Telephone Association and Mark Critz, executive director of the state's Rural Development Council.

Also, the Lycorma delicatula, or spotted lanternfly, arrived in Berks County from Asia in 2014.  The one-inch planthopper loves to eat grapes, hardwoods and hops - the ingredient that gives beer its distinctive bitterness. 

Growers in the region are desperate to eradicate the invasive species and on Tuesday's Smart Talk we'll talk about the threat the spotted lanternfly poses to the state's agricultural economy and efforts being undertaken to contain and destroy the bug with Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Fred Strathmeyer, Jr. and state entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger.

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Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula)

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Regarding the needs of students, our rural school district requires students to use the internet.  The majority of classes have no textbooks and instead use internet sites like Khan Academy and various YouTube teaching videos.  It would be nearly impossible for any student in our school district to be successful without high speed internet and yet the school district knows that 13% of our students do not have this access. If we want out students to be able to compete in a global workplace, they need to be computer literate, including internet. I would assume that those who live in areas without high speed internet also are limited in options of on-line charter schooling.                                                                 - Lisa, Lancaster County

- Once again America fails the poor and /or rural.  If it is hard to do we don't do it.  I live in a location in YORK TOWNSHIP where I Cannot get cable, To get internet for my children to be able to use school Chromebooks, I have a cell phone "hot spot", with  Bills in hundreds of dollars per month.  State Constitution mandates we provide education for all, but schools are using more tech and not all have access.  - Blaine, Delta

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