Survey finds poor internet service a deterrent to rural living

Worlds End State Park, just south of Forksville, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. Internet service in the county is among the worst in the state. (Dreamstime/TNS)

By Jason Nark

The Philadelphia Inquirer

When the COVID-19 pandemic settled in for the long haul, and people were no longer tethered to an office building, or even a town, some of them looked to the hills.

Manhattan, where space is scarce and rents high, saw its highest number of available units in over a decade this summer. Real estate agents in rural Pennsylvania told The Inquirer their phones were ringing nonstop from people wanting to move to less densely populated areas.

Some were just looking for a getaway.

“Our address would stay the same,” one Philadelphia resident told The Inquirer in May, “but we would spend more than half our time in a rural setting.”

One recent national study, however, found that poor Internet service remains a big drawback for people considering moving to rural areas. In a survey conducted by Satellite Internet, a research group that promotes Internet use via satellites, 36% of the respondents said it was preventing them from relocating there. A majority — 67% — said Internet service would affect their decision to move somewhere more rural.

Pennsylvania’s Internet service has long been a headache and nuisance for rural residents. A 2018 Penn State study found speeds were even slower than previously thought, particularly in counties like Sullivan and Wyoming. Streaming a movie on Netflix was nearly impossible.

During the pandemic, Pennsylvania’s rural Internet woes have become more critical, as many school districts can’t implement online learning and residents can’t work from home.

“Internet is something that used to be considered a luxury,” said State Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette), “and it’s now a utility.”

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