In June, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced that Pennsylvania will receive $1.16 billion in federal funding to build and expand broadband infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth. After receiving nearly 6,000 responses during a public comment survey, state officials recently approved the state’s five-year plan to implement the program. The plan now awaits federal approval from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) before funds can be driven out to specific programs.
According to the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the plan “identifies expected obstacles to full deployment and discusses various implementation strategies,” while also detailing plans for public-private partnerships to promote cooperation in closing the Commonwealth’s digital divide.
In a news release, DCED called the plan “a critical step toward achieving universal, affordable broadband access that meets and exceeds federally defined broadband speeds across the Commonwealth.”
Funding for this initiative comes from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, established by the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The program authorizes a total of $42.5 billion for projects to improve high-speed internet access across the United States.
Pennsylvania’s share of the money will be used to deploy high-speed internet to the estimated 276,000 households across the Commonwealth that currently have no access to the service (‘unserved’) and to 52,000 more that lack reliable access (‘underserved’). During a press conference in Erie last month, Gov. Shapiro said broadband expansion will produce economic, educational, and health benefits: “Positive outcomes come when people are connected to high-speed, affordable internet.”
The PA Chamber has played an active role in promoting broadband expansion, including Director of Government Affairs serving on the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority’s Outreach and Education Subcommittee. As we continue to work with policymakers at the state and federal level to leverage broadband funding and foster collaboration among stakeholders, we’re leading in bridging the digital divide and empowering every Pennsylvanian with reliable, high-speed internet connectivity. You can read more about our ongoing broadband efforts on the infrastructure section of our website.
In addition to the five-year plan, DCED officials are developing a separate Digital Equity Statewide Plan to be informed by additional public feedback. The department has been hosting community conversations across Pennsylvania since late June, and additional events are upcoming in Clarion, Northampton, and Montgomery Counties. The PBDA will also need to submit an Initial Proposal to federal authorities by the end of the year.
Once the NTIA has approved Pennsylvania’s five-year plan, state officials plan to begin awarding BEAD grants to approved participants in 2024. More information about the BEAD program can be found here.