At our May First Friday Forum Hourglass heard from Lisa Riggs, President, and Ezra Rothman, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, at the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County about closing the digital divide in Lancaster. Since early 2021 EDC, in partnership with the Lancaster STEM Alliance, has spearheaded an effort to develop a broadband strategy for Lancaster County. The effort included a study by national consultant CTC Technology & Energy.
What the Study Found:
The study looked at three key areas for Lancaster County: broadband infrastructure, affordability, and adoption.
Infrastructure: The study found that approximately 11,000-17,700 addresses in Lancaster County are unserved, meaning they don’t have access to basic 25/3 Mbps broadband to support a single internet user, let alone modern internet needs like video conferencing or e-commerce applications. The faster 100/20 Mbps is often considered the minimum speed needed, while increasingly fiber optic networks are the ideal standard.
Affordability & Adoption: Additionally, broad stakeholder groups such as local libraries, K-12 schools, higher education, healthcare and social services have identified affordability and digital literacy as significant challenges for parts of our community. Universities cited examples of students taking online college courses on a cell phone, and libraries have been putting hot spots in their parking lots so kids can complete homework afterhours.
The study found that $50/month is the starting price for internet in Lancaster, with services ranging up to $200/month for households. One service provider, Comcast, does offer discounted service for low-income households, called “Internet Essentials,” at $10/month. However, Comcast does not serve all of Lancaster County. Additionally, the study found that only .01% of Lancaster County is enrolled in the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides a $30/month subsidy for internet services for low-income households, despite 10% qualifying. The study also found a computer device gap of around 26,000 devices in Lancaster County.