TWO bills in the state Legislature designed to address the broadband “digital divide” — the gap between those who have access to good internet service and those, especially in rural areas, who do not — moved forward in the state Senate this week.
It’s vital that lawmakers push forward on all fronts to ensure all people — regardless of where they live — have access to internet connectivity. But as they do, it will be just as important for the government to keep pace with rapidly changing broadband transmission technologies.
The legislative action in Harrisburg occurred on Tuesday when the Senate Communications and Technology Committee approved two bills on a 7-3 vote.
The bills now move on to the full Senate for further consideration.
Senate Bill 442 would require the Department of General Services to complete an inventory of state-owned property to determine where telecommunications companies might be able to install towers and other infrastructure to improve high-speed internet for nearby homes and businesses.
Senate Bill 341 would roll back regulations on landline phone companies to try to help providers interested in deploying the infrastructure to make high-speed internet more widely available.
The passage of both bills will help the effort to deploy more internet services and further reduce the digital divide, but while lawmakers mull regulations that apply to transmission lines from house to house, it is also important for government officials to boost prospects for newer options, such as satellite and 5G cellular broadband transmission.
Major wireless cellular companies continue to expand their 5G networks, which can transmit broadband internet access at 40 to 1,100 Mbps (megabits per second). Cell carriers and 5G experts agree that 5G will eventually hit higher speeds, possibly topping 10 Gbps (gigabits per second), that’s 10,000 Mbps.
The Federal Communications Commission defines broadband internet service as delivering a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps.
Other options beam in from space. There are at least two major carriers of satellite transmission services that can be received by a small satellite dish set up at nearly any location. Meanwhile, SpaceX, the Elon Musk-led company that has been launching rockets and transporting astronauts to the International Space Station in recent months, continues to build out its Starlink satellite internet system, which is now in beta testing.
Regardless of which technologies work the best in rural pockets across Pennsylvania, the primary goal remains — close the digital divide by making adequate, functional internet connectivity available to all residents and businesses.
The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pa.) | CNHI