An online survey testing Internet speeds at homes and businesses in Washington County is helping officials determine the areas most in need of fast broadband expansion.
The survey, which has already received more than 600 submissions since its launch on March 10, aims to provide an overall picture of internet services in the province.
John Timney, executive director of the Washington County Authority, which leads the county’s broadband expansion efforts, said the Federal Communications Commission is able to split Internet service cards into each Census block, but they’re often misleading because they don’t. to do. shows the full view of the coverage.
“The best maps available in the FCC database have the wrong premise,” Timney said. “I can’t look out and say Bentleyville is covered because it’s green. I have to go ahead and ask, ‘How is your service?’ I can’t just say that the service is good or bad.”
Looking at service maps, Timney says it’s clear that a place like West Finley Township is usually unserved, meaning download speeds are below 25 megabits per second. But other places, like Cecil Township, have great service, although there are still places where some streets are not connected to fast broadband.
“The whole point of (the survey) is that I can’t rely on the data being provided to me,” Timney said. “It’s generally, directionally correct. But if we want to try to cover the province as best we can, we really have to take the temperature. †
Timney oversees the county’s nationwide broadband initiative program, which uses approximately $30 million in federal incentive funds from the US Rescue Plan Act to partner with Internet service providers to expand service. The program paid $179,700 to Hickory Telephone earlier this year to extend broadband internet to 50 homes and Meadowcroft near Avella, a pilot initiative to see if it could be scaled up elsewhere.
With the data Timney has already received from the survey, county officials are now preparing to make requests for proposals starting next week to expand services in locations determined to be underserved or underserved. About three quarters of all commenters are considered underserved, meaning their internet speed is less than 50 Mbps.
He acknowledged that some places, such as the townships of West Finely and Hanover, may be “swinging toward the fence” to be completed, but they want to at least explore feasibility and cost. Timney said the program will eventually have to make tough decisions about where to offer broadband, but in some areas he hopes telecommunications will expand on its own in areas that may just have underserved pockets.
“You’re 300 feet from the line,” Timney said. “How do we entice the (telecommunication company) to do so?
Meanwhile, the survey isn’t just for those without broadband internet service. Timney wants as many participants as possible to “triangulate the data” to figure out where the county should focus its resources on broadband deployment. The process takes less than 10 minutes and asks residents to fill out basic information before running a speed test to determine download and upload speeds.
“That helps validate the database and it helps me start and finish[the project],” Timney said of the study. “It’s gotten pretty crazy. People are quite involved.”
To complete the survey, visit the Washington County official website at www.co.washington.pa.us and click on the “Broadband Internet Survey” link. The investigation is expected to be active until the end of April.