HARRISBURG – With the goal of ensuring more Pennsylvanians have access to high-speed internet service, the state House today approved legislation authored by three Northern Tier lawmakers to better coordinate and handle funding for the state’s efforts.
House Bill 2071
, sponsored by Reps. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) and Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), would establish the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority to facilitate funds anticipated through a federal infrastructure bill recently approved by Congress.
The Commonwealth is expected to receive at least $100 million initially with the potential to obtain more after the authority develops a statewide plan for broadband expansion.
“This represents a major step forward in our broadband deployment efforts across the Northern Tier and other unserved or underserved areas of the Commonwealth,” Causer said. “High-speed internet access is vital to our efforts to educate our children, help our farmers and business owners stay competitive, and give our doctors and patients another tool to stay healthy.”
Under the bill, the authority would serve as a single point of contact for parties interested in developing broadband or having broadband developed, helping to minimize duplication and maximize the use of existing infrastructure. The authority would also be charged with identifying access to funding sources and help coordinate joint efforts for broadband buildout.
“This type of coordination is just what we need to finally get broadband service to the ‘last mile,’” Owlett said. “We’ve made some progress here and there over the last few years but having this single entity to actually award funding and coordinate deployment should be a game changer.”
“It is more important than ever to get quality broadband service out to our unserved and underserved communities here in the Northern Tier and across the state,” Pickett said. “It is encouraging to see this level of support and investment in an initiative that is truly vital to the success of rural Pennsylvania.”
The lawmakers noted the law creating the authority would sunset after six years.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Representative Martin T. Causer
Representative Clint Owlett
Representative Tina Pickett
Pennsylvania House of Representatives