In unanimous votes last week, the General Assembly sent H.B. 2071 to Gov. Wolf for his signature. The legislation aims to create the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority and a statewide plan for broadband internet funding and expansion into unserved and underserved areas of the state.
Internet connectivity speeds are generally substantially slower in rural counties than in urban areas because local municipalities often cannot afford to purchase and install broadband infrastructure. Currently, more than 800,000 Pennsylvanians lack access to reliable, high-speed internet, with more than 520,000 of those residents living in rural areas.
The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority would serve as a single point of contact for parties interested in expanding high-speed internet access and would be charged with identifying access to funding sources and coordinating efforts for broadband deployment. The creation of the authority comes at a critical time as Pennsylvania is slated to receive a minimum of $100 million in federal aid to expand broadband access through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Prior to the bill’s passage, it was amended to allow small business, nonprofits and local governments to apply for grants that would help them access this funding.
PA Chamber President Gene Barr applauded the bill’s passage and said that expanding broadband access is a priority – particularly in the state’s rural areas – and is a crucial part of the Chamber’s ‘Bringing PA Back’ initiative.