Herald-Standard: Fayette County residents urged to participate in home internet speed tests

Fayette County residents who rely on DSL or wireless home internet services are being asked to participate in the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority’s (PBDA) broadband service challenge process.

“The broadband authority has a list of addresses that they claim have broadband availability at their residences,” said Scott Dunn, chair of the county commissioners. “We have to look at this list and say this is right or this is wrong. We will challenge these addresses, because we’re sure that many of them don’t have the required megabyte speed to be considered reliable internet. If an area needs broadband, we want to get a grant to cover the area.”

The challenge is part of the Broadband Equity, Access and Development (BEAD) program, which has allocated $1.16 billion to Pennsylvania to bolster the infrastructure for robust internet connectivity in areas currently lacking or experiencing insufficient service.

A requirement of the program is to conduct a mapping challenge to validate the accuracy of the locations that need better service.

Residents with DSL or wireless home internet are asked to go to www.SPCBEADchallenge.com. There, they will identify their location on a map and take three brief home internet speed tests by 11 p.m. this Wednesday.

County officials have identified 473 homes equipped with DSL or wireless home internet services incorrectly labeled on the Federal Communications Commission map as having access to high-speed internet. This challenge process is part of the efforts to rectify this discrepancy.

The FCC map identifies regions as being served by strong, reliable internet, being underserved or completely unserved.

“The broadband authority has given us until Wednesday to challenge anything on their map that says that that area is serviced,” explained Mark Rafail, the county’s economic development director. “The 473 that we’ve seen, we don’t feel are serviced accurately. We also would like anyone else who feels their service isn’t accurate enough to go ahead and do the speed test.”

Rafail said doing the speed tests will allow county officials to identify where low-speed areas are.

“(W)e can additionally turn those into the state broadband authority so that they understand that even though these companies say they’re servicing these folks, these folks really aren’t serviced. We can submit these challenges to show that we are in need of better broadband and funding to do that better broadband,” he said.

Rafail said the county will be applying to the broadband authority in the fall for more money through the BEAD program.

Dunn said that getting broadband into county businesses is an important part of this process.

“If we exclude an area based on these 473 properties they say have broadband, then we can’t get fiber optic in there for business purposes,” Dunn said. “There is no business that’s going to operate from a fixed wireless platform.”

Residents whose addresses are identified as being unserved or underserved on the FCC’s map do not need to complete the challenge process but are encouraged to do so. Those locations have already been deemed eligible for BEAD infrastructure funding.

“We ask everyone who feels they’re underserved or unserved to submit information to that website,” Rafail said.

This challenge process is different from the FCC’s challenge process previously administered in January 2023. Residents that submitted a challenge last year should still consider taking part in this new challenge process.

“Last year’s challenge was with the FCC’s mapping and we sent those in on our own,” Rafail said. “All we had to do was prove there wasn’t service there, which was easy to do.”

Rafail said that was a process that was as simple as taking pictures of telephone poles.

View the full article at heraldstandard.com.