Meinrath is 2021 recipient of Faculty Outreach Award

April 22, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.  — Sascha Meinrath, Palmer Chair in Telecommunications in the Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State, has received the 2021 Faculty Outreach Award.

Sascha Meinrath

Sascha Meinrath

IMAGE: Penn State

The award honors faculty who have positively and substantially affected individuals, organizations or communities through problem solving or development as a result of extending their scholarship.

Nominators said Meinrath, who is director of X-Lab, an innovative think tank focusing on the intersection of vanguard technologies and public policy, is making a direct impact on critical issues relating to economic wellbeing, digital access, and cybersecurity. They called his work, which looks at how access to broadband connectivity and digital information can improve lives, “powerful, timely and relevant.” 

Several X-Lab projects earned Meinrath the outreach award.

In a research initiative funded by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, Meinrath found that nearly half the state lacked reliable, high-speed internet access. 

For this study, Meinrath’s group conducted more than 11 million broadband speed tests statewide, finding that fewer than half of Pennsylvania’s counties reported median speeds of more than 25 Mbps. The X-Lab mapped actual broadband speeds across the state, and shared their findings with other researchers, state and national lawmakers.

Nominators said the work, which was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, foreshadowed the ways poor broadband access impacts underserved communities.

“This project in itself illustrates why Meinrath is eminently qualified for this outreach recognition,” a nominator said. “It brought significant technical and analytical skills to bear on a critically important issue for economic development in Pennsylvania, leveraged the outcomes of the analysis into concrete policy proposals, and presented them to decision-makers in a compelling and persuasive manner. He demonstrated through this project how Penn State research can make life better for all Pennsylvanians.”

Meinrath also worked with Centre County’s Schlow Library on a project that looks at how digital information access can lead to long-term economic divide in communities. The project pushed internet connectivity into public spaces and explored ways to improve access to the internet to bridge the “homework divide.” 

Meinrath also helped found a similar project, the Philadelphia Community Wireless Project, which is working to improve internet access in Philadelphia.

“Professor Meinrath is providing expertise to generate innovative solutions, this time using ‘mesh networks,’ which extend a single connection to serve many users,” a nominator said.

Meinrath also helped spearhead policy and educational efforts to improve internet access to Indian Tribes. His recent work in this area supported the FCC’s Tribal Priority licensing window nationwide, which allowed Tribal nations to obtain wireless licenses at no cost. 

“Meinrath truly distinguished himself and your University during Indian Country’s great time of need and in the face of a pandemic that has forced our families and workforces to stay home in an attempt to remain healthy, employed, educated and civically engaged,” a nominator said. 

Last Updated April 22, 2021