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September/October 2003

Inside This Issue:

 

Report Offers Insights on Broadband Internet Service in PA
In today's communication era where instant access to people and information has become the norm, rural Pennsylvania has a distance to go before it catches up with its urban and suburban neighbors, according to research sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

While broadband Internet service is available in many rural areas, it is not available in all. Compounding this issue, and the current debate on broadband technology, is the lack of a standard definition of "broadband" itself.

These findings and others are now available in the report, Broadband Internet Service in Rural and Urban Pennsylvania: A Common Wealth or Digital Divide?

The research, conducted by Dr. Amy Glasmeier and Lawrence Wood of Penn State University, was carried out in 2002 and contains an analysis of the variations in broadband availability between urban and rural Pennsylvania.

Conducting the research
The research involved more than 100 detailed interviews, conducted from October to December 2002, with members of the telecommunications industry, including the majority of the incumbent local telephone providers in the state, as well as more than 40 cable companies that operate in Pennsylvania. These interviews involved the collection of detailed information regarding where, and the extent to which, these providers were offering broadband services within their given service areas. The collection of these data allowed for an assessment of broadband availability that was particularly current and highly detailed. Using recent socioeconomic data, fairly advanced geographic information system (GIS) techniques, and statistical analyses, the research identified a number of specific geographic, social, and economic factors that related to the deployment of broadband services throughout Pennsylvania. The interviews provided insightful perspectives--from the providers themselves--on demand for broadband services, the varying qualities of telecommunications infrastructures, and the nature of competition within the telecommunications industry in the commonwealth at the time the data was collected.

The research also included a survey of close to 200 businesses to learn the extent to which businesses were using a broadband connection and the type of provider they used.

Broadband availability
According to the research, several of Pennsylvania's telecommunications providers were among the country's leaders when it came to providing broadband and deploying advanced telecommunications infrastructures. The research also indicated that many businesses in rural Pennsylvania were effectively using the Internet to conduct business. In certain respects, many of the state's rural residents and businesses were fully participating in what has become a broadband-driven, digital era.

However, the research also revealed that while broadband services were virtually everywhere in the state's metropolitan areas, there was demonstrably less availability in the state's non-metropolitan areas and small towns, and even less availability in the more rural areas of Pennsylvania. In some rural and small town communities, for example, broadband was not available at all.

The research results also indicated a lack of competition for broadband services in rural areas, which resulted in problems, such as low speeds and poor service quality. So, while some of the state's telecommunications providers were clearly cutting-edge, others were far less so, and a deficiency of broadband deployment among some of the state's cable and telephone companies resulted in a spotted landscape of broadband availability throughout rural Pennsylvania. In relation to this, many of the state's rural businesses indicated that Internet use was becoming increasingly important.

The research indicated that as the demand for and the utility of broadband for these users continues to grow, it becomes imperative that reliable broadband connections are available from a number of providers at a reasonable price. The importance of having high-quality, reliable, and cost-effective broadband in Pennsylvania's rural communities cannot be overstated, especially considering that close to three million of the state's residents and thousands of businesses live and conduct business in these areas.

Service options
The research results showed that broadband had arrived in parts of rural Pennsylvania, but many areas had a long way to go to truly participate in the economic and social benefits of the modern, digital age. While their counterparts in metropolitan areas typically had a range of broadband options, a great deal of those living and working in rural Pennsylvania still had relatively limited or no options in broadband service. Some rural communities were significantly disadvantaged in terms of service availability.

The researchers suggest the state has the opportunity to take an active role in assessing the supply and demand of broadband services throughout the commonwealth. By working in an environment of cooperation and coordination with Pennsylvania's range of telecommunications providers, the state has the opportunity to establish an effective, timely, and coordinated means of information sharing and policy development among industry, government, and community actors.

They further recommend that the state identifies its goals as they relate to "universal access" to telecommunications services, particularly broadband services. As telecommunications technologies and infrastructures continue to develop at a rapid pace, it is important that more and better quality telecommunications services are deployed in the state's rural areas.

Finally, the researchers believe that Pennsylvania has an opportunity to be a leader in this regard; however, inaction, poor coordination, and limited cooperation among providers and communities could jeopardize the efficacy of this new technology for low-density areas of the state. In this modern era of broadband telecommunications, they suggest there is the clear possibility that rural Pennsylvania could be left behind.

Want more info?
For a copy of the report, Broadband Internet Service in Rural and Urban Pennsylvania: A Common Wealth or Digital Divide?, call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org.

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Chairman's Message
This summer, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania's board members traveled to Clinton County for an on-site experience of rural initiatives that are making a mark in our great state.

Clinton County is the home of Board Members Rep. Mike Hanna and Dr. Craig Willis and lies within the senatorial district of Board Member Sen. Jon Wozniak. We enjoyed visiting Lock Haven, the hometown of Rep. Hanna, and Woolrich, where we learned more about this delightful town's interesting history. During our stay, we also heard from grantees who updated us on their Center-sponsored grant projects.

Dr. Amy Glasmeier and Mr. Lawrence Wood of Penn State University, whose report is featured on page 1, discussed the current supply and demand for broadband Internet service in the state. Their study was conducted in the fall and winter of 2002. Broadband Internet service is an important economic tool that is being used across the commonwealth, spanning geographical and technical divides as it expands. The question on the minds of people in the policy-making area and in the industry is whether our progress is fast enough to keep rural Pennsylvania in step with suburban and urban neighbors and businesses where technology is already available. This report offers a perspective on broadband telecommunications supply and demand in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Joseph Segilia and Ms. Kim Dillinger of Penn State University - Fayette discussed their three-year grant project called, Rural Online Computer Centers, or ROCC. The project coordinated and provided computer access and training to residents of rural Fayette County. Ms. Dillinger discussed the project's successes and its future.

The board also learned more about how another community information network is providing Internet access, computer training, and more to Clinton County residents. The Keystone Community Network, or KCNet, located in downtown Lock Haven, is an outstanding example of what a community can do to provide its residents with much needed services. The enthusiasm of KCNet staff in showcasing its facility was certainly evidence of the strong local support this technological initiative has in this rural area.

We look forward to sharing with you the best practices and success stories of these and other community information networks in future publications.

Mr. Nathaniel Hosley of Lock Haven University provided an update on his Center-funded research project on alternative education, which was completed in 2002. His efforts to improve educational programs for disruptive students will continue thanks to funding support through two additional grants from the federal government. The first grant of $2.3 million is allowing the university to develop a master's level program on alternative education. The second grant, currently funded at $1.7 million, will allow the university to assist the Philadelphia School District with developing two professional development schools aimed at at-risk children. It is gratifying to see how the Center for Rural Pennsylvania's grant projects can help to spark additional research or programs.

The Center's Board of Directors welcomes Governor Rendell's new appointments, Steve Crawford, cabinet secretary for Legislative Affairs, and William Sturges, executive director of the Pennsylvania Rural Development Council, who joined the board effective September 1, 2003. I have enjoyed working with both individuals in the past and look forward to their contributions to our efforts for rural Pennsylvania as members of our board.

Representative Sheila Miller

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Report On Elderly Care Now Available
As Pennsylvania's rural population ages in place, questions surrounding health care services continue to surface and call for answers. To gather data and provide information on some of these issues, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania targeted two elder-related issues, namely comprehensive geriatric assessment and long-term care, as part of its 2000 and 2001 grant programs. The results of those research projects are now available in the report, Studies on Rural Elderly Care.

The first project highlighted in the report was conducted by Dr. C. Virginia Palmer of Millersville University, who studied the availability of comprehensive geriatric assessment in rural Pennsylvania and strategies for greater implementation. Comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA) is a medical, functional, psychosocial and environmental evaluation of an older person's problems and resources, linked to an overall plan for treatment and follow-up.

The other two projects highlighted in the report focus on long-term care. Drs. Dennis Shea and Robert Weech-Maldonado of Penn State University conducted a comprehensive analysis of long-term care services in rural Pennsylvania. Their research focused on the continuum of long-term care available in Pennsylvania, service demand and supply, costs, and barriers to service delivery.

Dr. Sara A. Grove of Shippensburg University focused her study on home health care agencies and family caregivers. The project examined the sources of payment for both public and private long-term care services, future demand for long-term care services, and barriers to providing long-term care services in rural Pennsylvania.

For a copy of the report, Studies on Rural Elderly Care, call or email the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or info@ruralpa.org.

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Trends in Rural Pennsylvania: Local Government Capacity
Pennsylvania has more local governments than any state except Illinois. Our state has 67 counties, 501 school districts, and more than 2,500 municipalities ranging from the City of Philadelphia with more than 1.5 million residents to S.N.P.J. Borough in Lawrence County with fewer than 10 residents. Sixty percent of all Pennsylvania municipalities are townships, 37 percent are boroughs, and just 2 percent are cities. There is also one town in the state, Bloomsburg in Columbia County.

While townships, by nature, are less densely settled than other municipality types, they are not always rural, just as boroughs and, believe it or not, cities are not always urban.

Rural Pennsylvania is made up of about 1,200 townships, 450 boroughs, and two cities.

Who they are
There are more than 35,500 local government officials in Pennsylvania, ranging from mayors, council members, and supervisors to members of planning commissions or zoning hearing boards. More than 20,000 officials, or 57 percent of the total, represent rural areas. Thirty-seven percent of rural officials are female.

According to survey findings from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, the average small town municipal official is a 56-year-old male who has been in office for 10 years and ran for the "betterment of the area" or a "desire to be active in the community."

The local government toolbox
There are many tools that local government officials may use to help them to effectively and efficiently maximize their capacity. These include computers, land use planning options, and the information and experience of officials in other municipalities.

A 2002 Center for Rural Pennsylvania survey shows that most small local governments are making use of computers. Eighty percent of municipalities with populations under 2,500 have at least one computer available for municipal use and 25 percent have more than one. In addition, 72 percent of those with computers had Internet access, which they used primarily for email and research but also to file reports with state government and to purchase goods and services.

Land use tools provided for by state law include planning commissions, comprehensive plans, zoning, and subdivision ordinances. Local governments typically employ some, if not all, of these options. The most popular in rural areas is the planning commission, which 53 percent of rural municipalities have. Comprehensive plans are drawn up for 47 percent of rural local governments. Nearly half (47 percent) have a subdivision ordinance at the local level while the remainder rely on county subdivisions. Forty-three percent have local zoning ordinances and an additional 20 percent have county zoning. Land use planning tools are more commonly used by urban municipalities.

Municipal services
Protecting citizens and providing recreational opportunities are services that municipalities often provide. Thirty percent of rural municipalities provide police services for their residents, either through their own municipal force, a regional force, or by contracting with another municipality. The remaining 70 percent, however, rely on the state police. The average rural municipal police force has 1.8 full-time and 2.6 part-time personnel.

A 2001 Center for Rural Pennsylvania survey on recreational issues found that more than 80 percent of small municipalities have at least one recreational facility such as a sports field, playground, ball court, picnic area, or trail within their borders. While municipalities own and operate the majority of recreational facilities, school districts and community groups also own many, and community groups frequently help with their operation. Local governments not only provide facilities but also sponsor programs such as youth sports leagues, community events, summer playground programs, fitness/wellness programs, and adult/community education, arts, and crafts.

Revenues and expenditures1
In 2000, rural municipalities took in nearly $855 million in revenues. Taxes accounted for just over half of all revenues with real estate, earned income, and realty transfer taxes amounting to 94 percent of total taxes. As seen in the chart above, other sources of revenue include federal, state, and county governments; fees for services like water or parking; and other miscellaneous sources.

More indicative of local government capacity is how money is spent. Rural municipal expenditures in 2000 were $709 million2. About 37 percent ($260 million) of this was spent on streets and roads and 17 percent ($118 million) was spent on general administration. Another 14 percent ($111 million) went to public services like safety and recreation.

The average rural municipality takes in about $545,000 in revenues and spends $450,000 million for a net gain of about $93,000. Nearly three-quarters of rural municipalities have revenues and expenditures of less than $500,000.

1 Revenue and expenditure data is based only on municipalities that reported financial statistics to the Governor's Center for Local Government Services. In 2000, about 90 rural municipalities did not report.

2 A few municipalities were excluded from expenditure calculations as their figures were extraordinarily high. It has not been determined whether these numbers are due to error or uncommonly large projects. The excluded municipalities and the expenditure category of the outlying figures are: Jackson Township in Tioga County (sewer project) for 1999, Indian Lake Borough in Somerset County (other), Salford Township in Montgomery County (streets/roads), and Ringtown Borough in Schuylkill County (general administration) for 2000. It is possible that some municipalities with a similar skewing effect remain in the data.

Definitions and Sources
Rural -All municipalities whose population density, according to the 2000 Census, is less than the statewide figure of 274 persons per square mile or whose total population is less than 2,500 persons, and less than half of the population lives in an urbanized area as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Background data come from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Unless otherwise noted, the remainder of the information comes from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Governor's Center for Local Government Services.

Note: Trends in Rural Pennsylvania is a series of articles that examines nine major areas of interest in rural Pennsylvania. The areas of interest are based on the mandates outlined in the Center for Rural Pennsylvania's enabling legislation (Act 16 of 1987), and include: agriculture; economic development; local government capacity and fiscal stress indicators; transportation; socio-demographics; health care and human services; environment and natural resources; education; and the condition of existing local infrastructure.

We will examine the trends in each interest area from 1990 to 2000, or the best time period according to data availability, and will make comparisons between the rural and urban areas of our state.

A more detailed fact sheet on each featured topic will also be available upon request by calling or emailing the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555 or info@ruralpa.org.

This is the fifth article in the series. The others examined health care access and affordability, transportation, socio-demographics, and education.

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OMB's Alternative Definition for Rural America
America's Non-Metropolitan Areas no longer exist, at least statistically speaking. In June 2003, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released data to identify its Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs). CBSAs replaced the former Metropolitan and Non-Metropolitan Areas that were used in the 1990s to describe urban and non-urban areas.

Using data from Census 2000, CBSAs contain at least one urban area of 10,000 or more population. There are two types of areas within a CBSA: Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas. A Metroplitian Statistical Area has at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more residents. A Micropolitan Statistical Area is smaller and has at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population. The "building blocks" of each of these statistical areas are counties. Counties with smaller urban populations may be included in a CBSA as an "outlying county" if they meet specific commuting criteria to or from the central counties. Counties not included within the CBSA are simply called "Areas Outside CBSAs."

In June 2003, OMB released its list of counties inside CBSAs. Nationally, there are 362 Metropolitan Areas comprised of 1,090 counties. More than 232.6 million Americans, or 83 percent of the total population, live in a metropolitan county. There are 560 Micropolitan Areas. These areas are made up of 674 counties. Nearly 30 million Americans, or 10 percent of the population, live in these counties. The remaining 1,377 counties across the United States are Areas Outside CBSAs. These counties are home to nearly 20 million Americans, or 7 percent of the total population.

In Pennsylvania, OMB identified 16 Metropolitan Areas comprised of 32 counties. About 10.3 million Pennsylvanians, or 83 percent of the total population, live in these counties. There are 21 Micropolitan Areas comprised of 22 counties. These areas are home to 1.6 million Pennsylvanians, or 13 percent of the state's population. Thirteen Pennsylvania counties are in Areas Outside CBSAs. These counties have a total population of nearly 0.4 million residents, or 3 percent of the state's population. For a list of the CBSAs, go to the Census Bureau's web page at www.census.gov/population/www/estimates/metrodef.html.

The new classification system will probably have very little impact for rural Pennsylvania since, according to OMB, the new system was created solely for statistical purposes. The agency also cautions other federal, state, and non-governmental agencies about using the classification for program funding without full consideration of the effect of using these definitions for such purposes.

This new classification system may have an impact on public and private research. As organizations adopt these definitions, their findings and conclusions will likely fit the categories of Metropolitan, Micropolitan, and Areas Outside CBSAs.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania will not use OMB's definition for its research since it adopted a rural definition based on population density in January 2003. The definitions for Pennsylvania's counties, municipalities, and school districts are: A county or school district is rural when the number of persons per square mile within the county or school district is less than 274. Counties and school districts that have 274 persons or more per square mile are considered urban. A municipality is rural when the population density within the municipality is less than 274 persons per square mile or the municipality's total population is less than 2,500 unless more than 50 percent of the population lives in an urbanized area, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. All other municipalities are considered urban.

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How Does Rural Work For You
Tell us how your rural community or organization is acting on its idea of building a better rural Pennsylvania so that we can share it with others.

Over the past few months, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania has been collecting information about the work of rural Pennsylvania communities, organizations and groups who, through innovative programs, projects or partnerships, are improving their rural communities' conditions, and providing opportunities to sustain the good works they have achieved. The programs are currently running or have been started and completed between January 2000 and this year.

After the Center has received and compiled all of the information submissions, it will feature the stories in its newsletter and in a special publication. The publication will provide details about the programs and projects so that other rural communities may replicate the models to use in their communities. The Center also plans to use the publication to celebrate the success of the programs and applaud the commitment of those involved.

To provide us with details of your project, program or partnership, contact the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for an information form at (717) 787-9555 or download the form, available in pdf format, at www.ruralpa.org. The completed forms should be returned to the Center by Friday, October 31, 2003.

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Just the Facts: Attention Deficit Disorder
During the 2001 school year, about one in 25 rural students was medically diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder/Hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this disorder involves inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity occurring in several settings and more frequently and severely than is typical for individuals in the same stage of development. The CDC estimates that this disorder affects between 4 to 6 percent of school age children and between 2 to 4 percent of adults.

Data collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Health from information supplied by school districts showed that in 2001, about 74,300 Pennsylvania students were medically diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, or about 4 percent of the total enrollment. In rural areas, nearly 21,500 students were diagnosed with this disorder. Both rural and urban areas had nearly identical percentages, 4 percent, of students' diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

Regionally, south central Pennsylvania had the highest percentage of students' diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, at 6 percent, while the southeast and southwest regions had the lowest percentage at 3 percent each. At the county level, Adams, Cumberland and Franklin counties had more than 7 percent of students diagnosed with this disorder. Clinton, Sullivan, and Cameron counties each had less than 2 percent of students who were medically identified as having ADD/ADHD.

Between the 1998 and 2001 school years, the number of rural students diagnosed with ADD/ADHD increased 16 percent. Urban areas had a 9 percent increase. These changes may be attributed to better reporting and increased awareness among medical and school officials since, according to the CDC, there is no simple test to determine whether someone has ADD/ADHD.

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Did You Know . . .

 

 

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