What to Watch For...Chamber Friday "On the Mark" 1070 AM

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Each month, Bob Garrett, President/CEO of the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, joins Mark Lawrence and Ben Reichley "On the Mark" on AM1070 WKOK.  This month the conversation will focus on the Chamber Strategic Urgency: Broadband and High-Speed Internet…Accessibility, Affordability, and Compatibility

Tune in here to the broadcast:

Never Again: GSVCC guests say we won’t miss another opportunity for high speed internet around here

Read on for Bob's thoughts:

From the Chamber’s current strategic plan, titled: Connect and Move Forward…Together has four ‘Urgencies.’ Based on input from our members, the following statement creates the priority related to Broadband and High-Speed Internet: 

“Access to broadband and high-speed internet has gotten better, but what can be done about its cost and compatibility within my operation? 
Just a few years ago, Chamber members said that the biggest obstacle that they had when it came to running and growing their operations was access to the internet. They made it clear that there was no road to success in our region if they couldn’t hook into the world wide web. Since much has been accomplished, largely thanks to good work of our local internet and cable providers. Rapid expansion happened in the last year, when residential internet connections became a lifeline for many folks who were working and attending school from home. 

But with this improved access came the current additional issues of cost and compatibility. Cost is largely a function of supply-and-demand. Compatibility relates to the different functions which agencies, businesses and households need from the internet at their location.” 

Prior to this broadband discussion, we will quickly respond to the April 2022 Employment Situation Report, aka the unemployment rate. Economists are expecting another upbeat report with an average of these predictions is 490,000 (actual: 431,000) new jobs in March. The Hospitality and Leisure super sector is expected to lead all other sectors with 160,00 new jobs created in March. Predictions for this morning’s Jobs Report: 

Unemployment rate: 3.7% (actual: 3.6%) 

Wages: +6.5% 

Average Work Week: 34.7 hours 

Participation rate: 62.4% 

So how are we doing? 
According to the county-by-county report, Greater Susquehanna Valley counties are ‘leading the pack’ among those with the lowest unemployment rates, with all counties below the statewide average. Montour lowest in state, with Union and Snyder in the group of ten lowest unemployment counties. 

Broadband discussion 

Steve Samara is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Telephone Association. This association represents the many independent telephone companies in our state. Steve will be responding to the following recent updates: 

1. On March 22nd, Governor Tom Wolf announced that $10 million has been approved for 19 projects throughout Pennsylvania under the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program. A variety of providers are set to be recipients, including RLECs Frontier and Windstream. 

2. Additionally, the FCC announced recently that it will open its third application window for funding from the Emergency Connectivity Fund beginning on April 28, 2022 (And closing on May 13, 2022) with an estimated $1 billion to be awarded. 

3. A recent federal “budget bill” included $550 million for rural development programs such as ReConnect and $62.5 million for grants for telemedicine and distance learning in rural areas. 

John Uehling is the founder of Contrast which is an IT services/IT consulting company located in Mifflinburg where they are celebrating ‘World Back Up Day’ today. 

John is a former Chamber Chairman of the Board and has spoken often about the issues related to rural Broadband and its challenges. He also serves on the Board for DRIVE. Contrast served a key role in the rapid roll-out of hotspots and other internet connections early in the pandemic and was instrumental in ‘bridging the digital divide’ that allowed distance learning to happen and for work from home options to be used by many local companies.

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