Governor Tom Wolf issued a statement today following House passage of H.B. 2071, which would create the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority. The Authority would serve as a single point of contact for parties interested in expanding high-speed internet access and is charged with identifying access to funding sources and coordinating efforts for broadband deployment.
“I commend the House and Senate for their efforts to swiftly pass this bill that will help bring high-speed internet to students, businesses and residents across Pennsylvania.
Expanding access to broadband is a priority for me and my administration is working closely with Democrats and Republicans in both chambers to craft an authority that will serve Pennsylvanians.
“Every Pennsylvanian deserves access to the high-speed internet that broadband provides. It allows people to do their jobs, participate equitably in school and healthcare, and helps people stay connected. However, in many rural communities the infrastructure for broadband does not exist. That leaves people without internet access or service that does not meet acceptable speeds.
“The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress with bipartisan support and signed by President Joe Biden will deliver $65 billion to help ensure that every American has access to reliable high-speed internet through a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment.
“The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority created by this bill will help to manage a minimum of $100 million in federal aid the state will receive for the broadband rollout in a coordinated and strategic way to support the construction of new towers, lines and broadband equipment. This represents a generational change for many rural communities to close the digital divide, improve equity and cost and bring the opportunities that broadband provides to more homes, schools and businesses.”
Throughout his administration the governor has emphasized the need to invest in high-speed internet access and created the Office of Broadband Initiatives to support that effort. Traveling the state, the governor has heard from Pennsylvanians that without broadband access, they lack the ability to find job opportunities, school-aged children cannot engage in remote learning, and emergency service communications are drastically reduced.
Internet connectivity speeds are substantially slower in rural counties than in urban ones because local municipalities cannot afford the cost to purchase and install broadband infrastructure. Currently, more than 800,000 Pennsylvanians lack access to robust, reliable, high-speed internet, with more than 520,000 of those residents living in rural areas.
To expand broadband service infrastructure in unserved and underserved area, the governor announced earlier this year that $5 million was available through the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program (UHSB). Separately, in October the administration awarded $20.6 million to 126 schools and libraries through the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) to ensure students have access to the digital devices, including internet services they need for the school year.