– Calling it a major victory for rural broadband expansion, a trio of Northern Tier lawmakers today applauded the signing of a new law they authored to finally establish a cohesive, coordinated effort to bring high-speed internet service to rural and other underserved communities across the Commonwealth.
Sponsored by Reps. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) and Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), House Bill 2071
– now Act 96 of 2021
– would establish the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority to coordinate and 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.
“The COVID-19 pandemic proved once and for all that access to high-speed internet is not a luxury but a necessity,” Causer said. “Successful expansion of broadband comes down to coordination and funding, and this new law addresses both. It is what we need to get across the finish line of providing broadband to all who need it.”
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.
“I’m confident this law is going to be a game-changer for our farmers, business owners, teachers, students, doctors, patients and all of us who have been hampered by slow or no internet service,” Owlett said. “I believe the funding and coordination facilitated by this law will finally get broadband service to the ‘last mile.’”
“This is a great day for all of us who have been fighting for broadband access in the most rural areas of the Commonwealth,” Pickett said. “Broadband infrastructure is as vital to our communities and our economy as our utilities and transportation infrastructure. I look forward to better connectivity for everyone in the Northern Tier.”
The authority will dissolve in 10 years, or when all available federal funds have been exhausted.
The law is effective immediately.
Representative Martin T. Causer
67th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Representative Clint Owlett
68th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Representative Tina Pickett
110th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler