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With an eye to bringing affordable, reliable internet access throughout a 10-county region, including Indiana, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Connected initiative is asking community members to take a brief survey online or by phone to provide information about their current internet access and experience.

The initiative said eligible participants can win a $50 Visa gift card for completing the survey.

SWPA Connected is a regional consortium that includes the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Carnegie Mellon University, Allies for Children, and a diverse group of regional partners to develop an equitable Connectivity Improvement Plan to provide affordable, reliable broadband internet access across the region.

Organizers said this initiative is not affiliated with any internet provider and is not intended to sell any internet services.

Rather, it seeks to guide the region’s future internet investments that can be made now that the historic infrastructure bill has passed, which includes $65 billion for broadband.

“We need the input of our residents, businesses and neighbors so that we can work together to overcome barriers and develop solutions that make broadband access what it truly should be: a required service that is always provided,” said SPC Executive Director Vincent Valdes.

“The pandemic has disproportionately impacted children, parents and the 500,000 Pennsylvanians that lack internet access, which meant they had no access to school or health services during a global crisis,” stated Jamie Baxter, executive director at Allies for Children.

Individuals are urged to take the survey online or by phone at (412) 407-4555 by Dec. 5. Survey questions will include information about internet connection types, how the internet is used and satisfaction of services.

All information collected will be anonymous.

“This survey and initiative are vital for our entire community,” said CMU’s Karen Lightman, Director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute. “The goal of this connectivity plan is to help ensure our region has equitable, affordable and reliable access to the internet, which is a basic human right like access to electricity and water.”

The survey is targeted to only gather information from residents, community members and businesses residing in the SPC 10-county region, which also includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland.

To learn more about the SWPA Connected initiative, visit www.spcregion.org/connected/.