Pennsylvania’s Statewide Broadband Plan, which was unanimously approved by the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority on November 17, aims to meet the immediate and long-term needs of people who live in the state.
The Authority will control more than $100 million in federal funds and will seek to extend broadband across Pennsylvania, including to the 800,000 citizens who currently are not served. The focus will be on infrastructure and availability, digital equity, affordability, device and technology access, digital literacy and technical support.
“Broadband is as essential today as electricity and water. But there is a digital divide in Pennsylvania,” said Governor Tom Wolf said in a press release. “This plan will ensure consistent, affordable, quality statewide broadband to keep children learning, businesses growing, and opportunities abounding for all Pennsylvanians.”
This isn’t Pennsylvania’s first foray into broadband funding. In 2018, the state launched a $35 million broadband investment incentive program to expand broadband in rural areas and in 2021, the state provided an additional $10 million in broadband deployment funding in what it called the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program.
The new Pennsylvania broadband plan was the result of legislation signed into law last December. Goals of the plan include:
- Maintaining current and accurate data on unserved and underserved populations;
- Reducing obstacles to broadband deployment;
- Supporting and maintaining a skilled workforce;
- Ensuring devices are made available and affordable;
- Ensuring multiple affordable service options are available;
- Ensuring affordable options are sustainable;
- Providing training so that every person can meet foundational digital literacy skills, and
- Developing a technical support network.
States are getting more involved in broadband as the federal government has made significant broadband funding available to them through programs such as the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.
In 2019, the Pew Charitable Trusts released a 50-state database detailing broadband efforts at the state level. It found that initiatives fell into five categories: broadband programs aimed at spurring broadband deployment, competition and regulation; definitions; infrastructure access and funding and financing.