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Officials emphasize broadband map challenges

A deadline to challenge the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Map is less than a month away.

And the state entity that will manage the vast sums of money that will flow into the state — the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority — wants to make sure citizens have the knowledge to challenge the maps.

A series of listening sessions are underway with the closest to Warren occurring Wednesday afternoon both virtually and in-person in Ridgway.

“We want to hear from you all,” Brandon Carson, the authority’s executive director, said to the 50 people on the call and the individuals in person. “We do have a state-wide plan in place that is going to be informing our efforts in 2023 and beyond as we gear up for some sizable investments in broadband infrastructure across the commonwealth.”

The current thrust of the authority’s efforts is a Jan. 13 deadline for challenges to the federal maps.

Carson stressed that those maps help determine the state’s share of $42.5 billion in federal infrastructure bill dollars specifically for broadband expansion.

Tom Beresnyak with Penn State Extension walked participants through how to file a challenge, which starts with putting your address in the box on the front page of the map.

“(You) can do it from any internet connected device,” he explained, though he cautioned that the type of technology has to be changed to wired and licensed fixed wireless. “If you see a red dot, you’re done. The map is correct (and you have) no service.”

“We recognize that this is a quick turnaround,” Kalie Snyder, consultant to the authority, said. “(It’s) important we engage as many as we can. It’s not lost on us we are asking individuals to go on the internet who may or may not have internet.”

“We’re actively trying to get the word out to the best we can with the timeframe we’ve been given,” Carson said. “Everyone should be looking at what data has been reported for their address and encourage others to do the same.”

Estimates indicate that upwards of $1 billion may flow into Pennsylvania for broadband expansion.

Carson said the authority will receive the state’s allocation and then facilitate competitive grant programs to distribute the funds. Internet service providers, local governments, nonprofits and rural electric cooperatives will all be able to apply for funds.

He called it a “kind of all-hands-on-deck approach when it comes to eligible applicants.”

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