Lack of reliable internet access problematic during coronavirus pandemic

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NEWPORT, Pa. (WHTM) — Using our cell phones and the internet is a part of every day life, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone is at home.
But for many rural parts of the state, staying connected isn’t so simple

More than 800,000 Pennsylvanians don’t have access to reliable high speed internet.

For years, Wayne Campbell and the Pennsylvania State Grange have been fighting for equal internet access acrossPennsylvania.

“Quite honestly, if you were to try to do this the other day when it was raining, there was a good chance this wouldn’t have happened,” Campbell said, referring to the Zoom video interview.

That’s the reality for many people living in rural Pennsylvania.

Not all of the students in our area, being in a rural community have a good solid internet connection, so it puts them at a disadvantage right now,” said Jennifer Danko.

Danko is Campbell’s daughter and a learning support teacher with the Newport School District, which is in the process of developing online learning plans.

“Specifically for Newport, we’ve been instructed to just do review and enrichment type material on information that had been taught to students prior to the March 13 shutdown,” Danko said.

Now teachers are reaching out to students through Google Classroom, Google Hangouts and Zoom meetings.

“If they’re not able to join our Google Classrooms through the Google meets that we’ve been doing virtually, then we’ve been making phone calls specifically to those students’ households,” Danko said.

“It’s not only the students. It’s the senior citizens. They can’t do telemedicine if they don’t have access to the internet,” Campbell said.

Campbell knows the financial future is uncertain, but after this pandemic is over, he says this needs to be a priority for state legislators.

“They realize it’s an issue. They realize it needs fixed. The question is, how can we get it done?” Campbell said.

Campbell says for the health of rural residents and even business, he hopes this is a wake up call to end the digital divide.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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