BELLEFONTE – Gov. Tom Wolf was joined by U.S. Department of Commerce Under Secretary Jed Kolko at Marion-Walker Elementary in Centre County Wednesday to highlight the Biden-Harris Administration’s $45 billion “Internet for All” initiative and Pennsylvania’s readiness to manage more than $100 million in federal funds to deploy affordable, high-speed internet to Pennsylvanians.
“Lack of broadband hurts Pennsylvanians far and wide—urban and rural. Our lack of consistent, affordable broadband keeps children from learning effectively, businesses from growing, limits job opportunities, and reduces medical care options,” said Wolf. “But soon this will all be history—that we can read online—thanks to the Biden Administration’s continued commitment to improved infrastructure for our combined success.”
Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the launch of Internet for All to provide affordable, reliable, high-speed internet for everyone in America by the end of the decade. The $45 billion initiative is made of up three programs to build internet infrastructure, teach digital skills, and provide necessary technology to ensure that everyone—including communities of color, rural communities, and older Americans—has the access and skills needed to fully participate in today’s society.
“For more than 20 years, we’ve been talking about closing the digital divide in America. Now we finally have a chance to do it,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator. “Together, we can make sure that everyone in Pennsylvania has access to the affordable high-speed internet service they need to succeed in the 21st century economy. I’m grateful to Governor Wolf and all the community leaders working to make this dream a reality for Pennsylvanians.”
Pennsylvania will receive at least $100 million from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program. Hundreds of millions in additional formula funding will be made based on the forthcoming coverage maps from the Federal Communications Commission. To prepare for this funding and ensure oversight and support for broadband deployment in Pennsylvania, Gov. Wolf and Pennsylvania’s General Assembly worked across party lines to create the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority.
“This program and funding is going to change lives,” Wolf added. “We knew we had to be ready for the world of opportunity this would bring to the citizens of Pennsylvania. The Broadband Authority is actively preparing; poised and ready to deploy broadband and connect Pennsylvanians to a secure and successful future.”
The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority was signed into law by Gov. Wolf in December 2021. This newly established authority is charged with creating a statewide broadband plan and distributing both state and federal funds for broadband expansion in unserved and underserved areas of the commonwealth.
“President Biden’s Internet for All funding is a game-changer for the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who currently lack high-speed internet access,” said Sen. Bob Casey. “This investment means that families can get connected, kids can do their homework and businesses can grow and thrive. This is the infrastructure law in action, and it’s only the beginning of the hundreds of millions of dollars coming to the commonwealth to better connect Pennsylvanians to the world.”
Pain from lack of reliable broadband is found statewide and was exacerbated over the past two years as Pennsylvanians relied on virtual means of communication, work, and learning. While rural counties are especially vulnerable, communities outside of Pennsylvania’s biggest cities are also left behind because of inaccessibility or affordability. At least 500,000 Pennsylvanians are without broadband, this lack of access slows economic growth and limits opportunity.
Gov. Wolf has worked to improve broadband access throughout his administration. In 2018, the Wolf Administration launched a $35 million Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program to expand broadband in rural areas.
In 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development launched the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program to further support the deployment of high-speed broadband infrastructure to unserved areas with $10 million in funding.
The creation of the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority is another step to provide broadband access to all Pennsylvanians and put the commonwealth on a path to a brighter future.