Comcast expands its Xfinity 10G Network to Coopersburg

Comcast is expanding its Xfinity 10G Network to more than 1,200 homes and businesses in the Borough of Coopersburg in Lehigh County, with completion of the project expected this month.

These customers will have access to Comcast’s full suite of services, including Xfinity residential broadband speeds up to 1.2 gigabits per second and Comcast Business speeds up to 100 Gbps.

“We are proud to make this investment in Lehigh County,” Dan Bonelli, senior vice president of Comcast’s Freedom Region, said in a release. “Bringing high-speed and reliable Internet access to Coopersburg, and extending our services in Lehigh County, will help ensure that more residents and businesses have the important broadband connections they need for their educational, professional and personal lives.”

Residential customers will be able to take advantage of Xfinity’s full suite of Internet products, including supersonic WiFi technology from powerful gateways, xFi Advanced Security, Xfinity Mobile, and Flex, a 4K platform for Internet-only customers that seamlessly delivers streaming content.

Comcast said the Xfinity 10G Network with next-generation Xfinity gateways delivers the most advanced WiFi technology, carrying three times more bandwidth to power streaming, gaming, videoconferencing and more simultaneously.

For local businesses, Comcast Business offers a suite of connectivity, communications, networking, cybersecurity, wireless and managed solutions to help organizations of different sizes, the release said.

Over the last few years, Comcast invested $2.4 billion in Pennsylvania to improve and expand its network. Comcast’s expansion in Lehigh County is the company’s latest investment in eastern Pennsylvania.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Lehigh lawmaker looks to make esports available to all Pa. students

Electronic sports (esports) are introducing students in high school and higher education to careers in gaming, software, and STEM-related jobs, and a Lehigh lawmaker looks to make esports accessible to every student across the state. 

Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, was part of a roundtable discussion held Wednesday by the House Majority Policy Committee to learn more about the billion-dollar industry and its impact on the state’s economy and education. While esports teams exist throughout Pennsylvania at the high school level, the cost of these programs includes thousands of dollars in equipment and supervisors and poses challenges to economically disadvantaged school districts. 

Schlossberg has authored legislation to create a sustainable funding stream to support extracurricular programs for students across the state. 

“At first glance, esports might look like only video games, but one of the greatest aspects of extracurricular activities is to create an atmosphere where students build friendships and learn outside a classroom,” Schlossberg said in a statement. “Esports not only provides those opportunities, but it also exposes students to new digital technology and presents the possibility – like traditional sports – for students to earn college scholarships.”

Rep. Danilo Burgos, D-Philadelphia, said esports can provide the spark that encourages academic and emotional development in students.

“One of the most exciting aspects about esports, for me as a legislator and Latino, is its potential for an equitable solution to our strikingly low number of Black and Hispanic workers in STEM-related careers,” said Burgos, chairman of the Policy Subcommittee on Progressive Policies for Working People.

“Esports attract a diverse group of students, regardless of race or gender, and it has proven itself as a gateway into encouraging young people to pursue STEM education as well as STEM-related careers.”

Developing familiarity with digital technology at a young age is another aspect of esports. Studies show that Black youth make up the largest portion of the gaming teenage community, yet Black workers account for only 9% of the jobs in STEM-related fields.

“Esports offer students another chance to interact and learn alongside their peers,” said House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie. “It also has the potential to bring together a diverse group of students, and it encourages an interest and understanding of the science and digital technology being used at their fingertips. Esports also offer a tremendous economic opportunity for Pennsylvania.”

During the roundtable discussion, the House Majority Policy Committee heard from experts and business leaders on the esports industry and its potential positive effects on Pennsylvania’s economy and workforce.

Preparing Your Business for an Uncertain 2023 Economic Outlook

As our economy continues to slowly emerge from a once-in-a-century pandemic, it’s no wonder business owners feel uneasy about financial decisions that were once considered routine.   

Demand for goods and services continues to outpace supply. Businesses face labor shortages that have led to the strain of increased wages. Supply chain challenges are delaying projects and business cycles. The Fed is trying to squash inflationary pressures by raising interest rates.   

All of these factors have contributed to today’s uncertain economic climate, and 2023 may present similar challenges. As a business owner, it may be hard to come to grips with the fact that you can’t be in control of all the external economic forces working against you. That’s why your focus needs to be on what you can control. Of course, none of us has a crystal ball to predict the future, but there are tangible, strategic measures businesses can take to blunt any negative impacts.   

The first step is to get a clear view of your business’s solvency by closely monitoring profit and loss, operating expenses, and revenue streams. Pay attention to how each of these fluctuates based on seasonal activity, the impact of inflation, the change to your cost of capital and discretionary spending trends.   

Develop multiple business plans for different scenarios. It’s good to have a primary operating plan, but also have a backup in case the economy takes a sudden downturn or makes a faster-than-expected rebound on which you can capitalize. In either event, a working capital line of credit can help normalize cash flow irregularities and provide funding when revenues decline or are delayed.  

If you’re in the services sector, be sure to listen to your clients and understand their challenges. They’re excellent predictors of the year ahead, and opening up lines of communication allows you to explore better ways to partner with them.   

Smooth cash flow problems by reducing payment/receivable cycle time. Establish new ways to get paid, such as an e-commerce storefront, automated clearing house (ACH) and business-to-business card payments. The goal is to ensure you have a payments partner that settles quickly and gets your funds to you fast.   

With employee recruitment a continuing challenge, revamp your hiring process to handle ongoing churn issues. A new process should include faster training and integration to continue your company’s ability to protect operations and, of course, revenue streams.   

Keep an open line of communication with your current employees. Listen to their ideas and show them you value their counsel and dedication. One or two good ideas could change the course of a company’s future forever. Added communication and appreciation also can go a long way to keep your team together at a time when the job market continues to be volatile.  

Lastly, be open and flexible to new ways of doing business – and revisit previous ideas. Opportunities previously discarded might be the perfect fit now.   

Just remember, as a business owner, you cannot always predict the future, but with a few simple steps and an open mind, you can prepare for any potential outcome to help protect your company and valuable employees.   

Heather Hall has more than 20 years of success in the financial and banking industries in the capital region and is executive vice president at Mid Penn Bank, which has offices in Lehigh, Bucks, Berks, Montgomery and Schuylkill Counties, among many others. 

Three new Pa. bills announced as becoming law

Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster County) has announced three new bills becoming law. 

House Bill 2633, now Act 139, refines an existing law allowing the compensation of student athletes for the use of their name, image, or likeness (NIL). It includes a provision removing language prohibiting schools from arranging NIL deals for their student athletes and requiring students to share the contract with their school for at least seven days prior to the execution of the contract. 

Martin said it is a small but important clarification that provides student athletes more agency over their private contracts and the financial rewards they earn. 

“In the absence of national standards around NIL compensation by the NCAA or Federal law,” Martin said in a statement, “we must do everything we can here in Pennsylvania to make sure every student athlete that chooses one of our schools is treated fairly.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court decision a year ago in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) v. Alston provided a path for student athletes to be compensated for NIL usage. Still, no national standard was established for a way that was appropriate and equal. States were left to enact their own rules, and Martin authored Act 26 of 2021, along with Sens. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks County) and Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh County). 

“Our institutions of higher education continue to work with students to help them navigate the new law and promote and protect themselves,” said Martin. 

Also becoming law last week, Martin said, was legislation that will provide educational credits to dentists who volunteer at free clinics and charity events. Martin’s Senate Bill 1173 became Act 159 and allows professionals to claim up to three hours served at a volunteer clinic or a charitable event as credit for continuing education. After passing unanimously in the Senate in June, it was approved in the House of Representatives last October. 

“Those who participate not only hone their skills but expose themselves, in many cases, to progressive dental emergencies that arise from lack of routine care,” Martin said. “I believe this type of volunteerism should be encouraged and its value should be properly recognized.” 

Poor oral health has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and overall health and wellbeing, according to multiple studies. Martin said volunteer opportunities provide crucial access to underserved populations who often fall through the cracks in the existing health care system and face poorer outcomes. 

“This law not only improves the healthcare of many of our constituents in the short term,” said Martin, “but as mentioned before, it would go a long way to preventing long-term diseases, which of course means less of a financial burden on Pennsylvania taxpayers as a result.” 

In addition, Martin said a bill clarifying license plate obstruction violations became law last week to prevent the criminalization of thousands of drivers overnight. 

“You can look around any parking lot and you will see many vehicles with custom frames surrounding their license plates, often issued by their car dealers or of their favorite sports team,” Martin said, referencing a recent Superior Court decision in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Derrick Ruffin. 

The decision involved a panel of three judges ruling justifying a Philadelphia police officer’s decision to pull over a vehicle because a custom license plate frame blocked the state’s tourism website from view. 

“That decision meant that any one of those drivers could be pulled over with probable cause,” said Martin. “That wasn’t the intent of lawmakers, and certainly wasn’t fair to our motorists or our police departments. I’m pleased this law now fixes that for all parties involved.” 

To that end, Martin sponsored Senate Bill 1357, stipulating that plate obstructions only apply to important identifiable information. It was amended into House Bill 1486 and became Act 112 after becoming law with the Governor’s signature.

State protects 18 new farms from development

Pennsylvania protected 784 acres on 18 farms in nine counties from future development today, investing more than $3.166 million in state, county and local dollars to ensure that prime farmland is not lost to development.  

Russell Redding – submitted

Pennsylvania has now protected 6,094 farms and 614,668 acres in 58 counties from future commercial, industrial or residential development. 

 The 18 newly preserved farms are in Berks, Centre, Chester, Erie, Lebanon, Lehigh, Northampton, Washington and Westmoreland counties. 

“Preserving farmland is an investment in our economy, our environment, our quality of life, and our future food security,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “We’re proud of that investment and we owe these farm families a debt of gratitude for making a decision that guards their family legacies and benefits all of Pennsylvania.”    

 By selling their land’s development rights, landowners ensure that their farm will remain a farm and never be sold for residential, commercial or industrial development, Redding said. Farm families often sell their land at below market value, donate additional land or agree to conservation practices on their farms in order to leverage additional federal and state money to preserve others’ family farms. 

Pennsylvania partners with county and sometimes local governments and non-profits to purchase development rights, ensuring a strong future for farming and food security and leading the nation in the number of preserved farms. Since 1988, Pennsylvania has invested more than $1.6 billion to protect open, green spaces and food production for the future. 

Among the farms preserved today are: 

 Berks County Total investment $157,936 state, $24,150 county. 

The Sharon P. Cameron Farm, Centre Township, a 31-acre crop farm. 

The David L. and Linda J. Nirschl Farm, Penn Township, a 34-acre crop and livestock farm. 

Lebanon County Total investment $710 state (owner donated land). 

The Sue Ellen and John T. Bowman Farm, North Lebanon Township, a 1-acre crop farm. 

 Lehigh County – Total investment $337,396 state, $556,536 county, $ 212,500 township. 

The Susan M. and Edwin C. Gardner, Jr., North Whitehall Township, Farm, a 17-acre horse farm. 

The Robert A. Schmidt Farm, North Whitehall Township, a 50-acre crop farm. 

The Kevin L. Smith Farm #4, Washington Township, a 12-acre crop farm. 

The Marshall M. Mangold Farm, Lowhill Township, a 94-acre crop farm. 

 Northampton County Total investment $267,879 state, $160,882 county, $239,102 township. 

The Richard B. and Lois P. Kerbacher Farm, Moore Township, a 57-acre crop farm. 

The Kyle J. Kerr Farm, Washington Township, an 11-acre beef farm. 

The Carol Nagy Smith and Stewart C. Smith Jr. Farm, a 20-acre crop farm. 

The Dianne L., Marshall A., Hope D. and Donald W. Woolverton Sr.; and Jayann M. and Jeffrey W. Kerr Farm, Washington Township, a 52-acre crop and livestock farm. 

Pennsylvania’s Farmland Preservation Program recently secured a $7.85 million grant from the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program to support climate-smart conservation on preserved Pennsylvania farms, the Department of Agriculture said.