Berks Alliance Community Forum : BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: A COMMUNITY FORUM ON INCREASING INTERNET ACCESS - Feb 2021
Bridging the Digital Divide : A Community Forum on Increasing Internet Access
The Covid-19 Pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our lives. Schools and Colleges moved significantly to online virtual learning. Many businesses encouraged their employees to work remotely. Some commercial enterprises were either barred from serving customers or limiting the number of people who could enter their establishment. They were forced to adopt new ways of serving customers. One thing this epidemic has taught us is that access to the Internet is an essential service, just like having drinking water or electricity.
Alvaro Sanchez and Adam Scavette from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia will present their research on the challenges related to broadband internet access and highlight their work with with the Penn State Extension Service, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the state Department of Labor and Industry to identify where the gaps in access are occurring. It is evident from their research that this challenge is both an infrastructure and an affordability challenge.
A local group operating under the umbrella of the Wyomissing Foundation is focusing on the challenges here in Berks County. Two members of this group will respond to the presentations by the Federal Reserve researchers. Scott Major, who works for the Berks County Intermediate Unit, is using the information provided by the Penn State Extension Service to identify locations with no or limited access to the Internet. There appear to be over 6,000 properties in the county with no or limited access. Yamil Sanchez works for the Reading School District, which has moved all of its educational programs to a virtual setting. There have been several challenges that the school district has had to address in doing so, including providing computers to students, working with Internet Service Providers to offer affordable access, and working with students and their families to provide assistance in how to access the Internet and use the computers that they have been given. Yamil will talk about how the district addressed these multiple challenges and what they suggest about expanding access in an urban community.
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(You can find the Federal Reserve studies here toward-digital-inclusion-broadband-access-in-the-third-federal-reserve-district.pdf (philadelphiafed.org) and here broadband-access-computer-use-and-labor-market-attachment-in-philadelphia.pdf (philadelphiafed.org)