The PA Department of Labor and Industry has awarded a $200,000 grant to conduct a Southern Chester County Internet Access Study, following concerns raised by community and business representatives of the region, and a successful application by the Chester County Department of Community Development.
The application for funding followed a meeting between the Chester County Commissioners and community leaders from southern Chester County, to discuss the internet access challenges faced by residents and businesses in the region.
Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline said, “It is difficult to believe that there are areas of Chester County that do not have strong digital access, but this is the case in pockets of the southern part of the county.
“The ‘virtual’ world brought on by the pandemic has made internet coverage very necessary. We are pleased that the State has recognized this and awarded the funds needed to begin addressing it.”
The Southern Chester County Internet Access Study will analyze internet access to business and residential areas of the four southern Chester County school districts, including Kennett, Avon Grove, Oxford and Unionville-Chadds Ford. Led by the Chester County Intermediate Unit, which is recipient of the grant, the Study will include input from the Southern Chester County Opportunity Network, the Southern Chester County Chamber, municipal officials, local employers, telecom providers, the four school districts, and other community representatives including senior households.
Kennett Township Supervisor Whitney Hoffman, one of the community leaders initiating the call to address the internet access issue in southern Chester County said, “We are incredibly grateful to the County for its help with this important project. We'll soon have a better idea of where we have weaknesses in our local broadband and cellular networks, and be ready to make improvements, especially as funding may become available through the proposed federal infrastructure bill being considered in Congress."
An interactive map produced by Ben St. Germain, Purdue Center for Regional Development in 2018, shows that just under 15% of Chester County in total lacks internet access, with areas of high and moderate vulnerability located in the southwestern part of Chester County.
The Chester County Intermediate Unit will begin a request for proposal process as soon as funds are received by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, with a goal to begin the Study in by July.