The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority last week approved program guidelines for projects seeking support through the state’s expected $279 million funding allocation from the U.S. Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF). Congress provided Treasury billions in funds to be directed toward states for investment in broadband infrastructure and digital connectivity as part of the American Rescue Plan. In May, the Authority will begin accepting applications from local governments and economic development organizations seeking portions of $200 million from CPF for fiber and cable extensions. The remaining funds will be used to support digital literacy and improve broadband at community anchor institutions like public libraries.
Per statute, the secretary of the budget and all four legislative designees to the Authority must agree for the Authority to act. In recent weeks, the Authority has been deliberating to overcome disagreement over proposed language regarding how CPF projects would be scored. Building on comments to the Authority on the guidelines, the PA Chamber expressed concern that some of the language regarding use of union labor would delay projects and add cost. The PA Chamber is pleased to see many of these concerns addressed in the final guidelines and hopes that the Authority’s future deliberations to establish guidelines for additional tranches of federal broadband funding will be more transparent and constructive with respect to the concerns of all stakeholders.
The next significant bucket of funding to Pennsylvania will come after the Federal Communications Commission resolves challenges to updating national maps that define unserved and underserved areas. These maps will inform additional state allocations for funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program (BEAD). Pennsylvania will receive at least $100 million in late 2023 or early 2024, with additional BEAD funding determined by the state’s national share of unserved locations in high-cost areas.