COMING SOON - Subscribe to an ad-free version of exploreClarion. Click Here for more info!
Broadband Access Sporadic, at Best, in Rural Pennsylvania
But, now that the United States is in the midst of stay at home orders, work-from-home, and online schooling, those issues – ones the politicians who have talked about but done very little solve – are creating dilemmas across the country.
And, that is no different in Venango, Clarion, Forest, Jefferson, Clearfield, and surrounding counties.
“There are several issues that rural Pennsylvanians face in this time of shutdown,” Barry Denk, Director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania told exploreClarion.com. “Lack of broadband internet is one.”
According to Denk, in normal circumstances, the lack of broadband internet in rural Pennsylvania is a significant roadblock, and now, that impact is more likely greater.
“The importance of broadband for work, education, health care, and even entertainment has long been documented,” Denk said. “Now, we’re hearing about ordering your groceries online for delivery or pick-up, more employees working from home, and children and young adults taking classes virtually or getting lessons online. With the onslaught of COVID-19, being technologically connected has greater meaning and importance that before.”
A June 2019 research report published by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania on broadband availability and access in Pennsylvania collected more than 11 million broadband speed tests and found that at the county level, there were zero counties in Pennsylvania where at least 50 percent of the population received broadband connectivity as defined by the FCC of 25 Megabits (Mbps) per second download and 3 Mbps per second upload. Download speeds would be when you are searching the web, watching movies, etc, while upload speeds would be when you are sending pictures, videos, etc. to someone else or to some service.
The approximate average speeds in Clarion, Jefferson, Venango, Forest, and Clearfield Counties were strikingly inadequate.
Jefferson County had the fastest average download speed at 7.3 Mbps, followed by Venango County at 5.0 Mbps, Clarion County at 4.5 Mbps, Clearfield County at 4.3 Mbps, and Forest County at 2.5 Mbps.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t even tell the full story.
An unscientific survey of local counties by exploreClarion.com found that it is all luck of the draw in terms of how fast your internet speeds are.
A vast majority of the people who responded to exploreClarion.com had speeds that barely make having “high-speed” internet worth the price. Those people were mostly using DSL services, which means they get internet through their phone lines, like Verizon and Windstream.
“Verizon was the only non-satellite provider we could get in Shippenville,” Jessica Tancrell said. “Our download speed is 1.03 Mbps and our upload is 0.12 Mbps.”
Some people would love to have those speeds.
Kelli Miller, who lives between Cooperstown and Cochranton in Venango County, said her speeds have been awful registering at 0.58 download and 0.55 upload.
“I have a college student who has to take online courses since the schools shut down and a third-grader who I’m trying to find educational things for him to do online. We have to plan accordingly because no two people can be doing anything at the same time. It’s ridiculous in this day and age that this is even an issue. Verizon is our only option, and it isn’t much above dial-up. And, this is the ‘enhanced’ internet through them. I actually pay more for this. Nothing will ever get done about this, though. People always talk about fixing this, but they never do.”
Windstream is slightly better depending on where you live but not much.
Travis Myers lives in Knox and has Windstream. He is getting 14.8 Mbps download speeds and 1.37 Mbps upload speeds.
“We live three or four miles outside of Rimersburg,” Arthur Veling said. “Windstream is the provider, and we are supposed to be getting 6 Mbps but it varies. Sometimes it’s down in the Kbps (kilobits per second, which is slower than Mbps) range.”
Veling’s download “speed” was 0.77 Mbps with an upload of 0.45 Mbps.
Tina Barnett lives near Knoxdale in Jefferson County and also has Windstream.
“I am maxed out with what I can get,” Barnett said. “I pay for 10 Mbps, which is the max. I got 10.3 Mbps download and 0.75 Mbps upload when I tested. But our internet is not dependable. A lot of the time we can’t even get on the internet, and we have to rest our router a lot. I tried to get another internet, but we don’t have a choice and when we had satellite internet in the past, it was worse than what we have now. We can’t use our cellphones for the internet because we have no signal where we live and have to run our cellphones through our internet. I am definitely frustrated with internet service in our area.”
Some people have elected to try their luck with satellite internet, but that isn’t much of an improvement if any.
“We live outside of Polk (in Venango County),” Geo Basara said. “We have HughesNet and pay $85.00 a month for very bad service. Our download speed is 5.85 Mbps and is worse after 7:00 p.m. Our upload is 2.95 Mbs. We cannot stream anything. It’s too slow. I can’t take my online classes. I often drive out in my car to do some business. High-speed broadband is needed for good-paying jobs.”
Jolene Pierce also has Hughes Net and lives in northern Clarion County off Route 66 on Breniman Road.
“Our download speed is 2 Mbps,” Pierce said. “Our upload speed is 0.6 Mbps. We are limited to 20 GB of data before our data speeds are reduced, and we pay $80.00 per month.”
Mark Lambing, who lives in Miola, said he has only two options – Verizon or Hughesnet.
“Verizon we only get 3 Mbps,” Lambing said. “I can’t do any of my school work because everyone in the house is working from home. It takes two hours just to download a small file. It’s either that or be financially gutted by Hughesnet that will reduce your speed to 3 Mbps anyway. We’ve had this for 10 years, and everyone in Miola has this issue. Of course, we can’t get anything better because it’s apparently too expensive.”
While many people in the region are saddled with poor internet, that isn’t the case for everyone.
Some people are fortunate and have over 200 Mbps download speeds. Others have more than adequate coverage with upload speeds ranging from the 30s to the 60s.
Most of the people who had better speeds were able to get cable internet through Armstrong, Atlantic Broadband, or Comcast Xfinity.
Comcast and Armstrong’s services seem to be the best, although not that many people can get it.
Matt Guerin, of Oil City, has Xfinity and his download speed is well over 200 Mbps (it registered at 239 using Speedtest.net), and his upload speed is an adequate 6.03 Mbps.
“I’m required to work from home, and it has been great as it always is,” Guerin said. “We pay for the faster internet because we watch a lot of streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), so we never have an issue with slow internet.”
Mike Wile, from Sligo, also has Xfinity and has similar speeds to those Guerin is seeing getting 233.88 Mbps download speeds and 5.96 Mbps upload speeds.
Justin Goodwill, of Seneca, has Comcast and has some of the fastest speeds recorded by those who responded to exploreClarion.com.
The same is true for Kyle Yates, of Brookville, who has Comcast Blast.
“I am getting 231.2 Mbps download speeds and 11.6 upload,” Yates said.
Maryanne Agnew, of Lucinda, has Armstrong Cable internet and said her speed when her son isn’t gaming is 206 Mbps download and 16.9 upload.
“I work from home, and the speed meets my needs,” Agnew said.
Jennifer Geyer, who lives along Route 66 in Marienville, Forest County, also has Armstrong Cable.
“Currently our internet is fine,” Geyer said. “Our download sped is 200 Mbps, and our upload speed is 20 Mbps. That is essential since one member of the house works from home. It is also used to access the news, entertainment, and occasional online shopping.”
Melissa Bauer, of Lucinda, also has Armstrong cable, but her speeds aren’t quite as good as some others with the service.
“We are getting 51.8 Mbps download and 20.8 Mbps upload,” Bauer said. “They just raised the price to $83.00 per month. We don’t have cable or satellite (TV), so we use it for Netflix and Hulu and playing around on the internet. No one has to work from home.”
Jamison Gensler, who lives on Main Street in Knox, said he has Atlantic Broadband and is getting speeds of 120 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload.
That seemed to be on the high end of Atlantic Broadband customers.
“I pay for 120 Mbps but only ever get half of that,” Shane Thompson, also of Knox, said. “They always tell me my Playstation test doesn’t work, but this app (Speedtest.net) says the same thing.”
Just outside of Shippenville, Chris Rossetti also has Atlantic Broadband. The download speed is usually between 45 Mbps and 65 Mbps (it was 62.51 when recently tested) with download speeds around 5 Mbps to 6 Mbps (it was 6.41 when recently tested).
Copyright © 2020 EYT Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of the contents of this service without the express written consent of EYT Media Group, Inc. is expressly prohibited.