Expanding high-speed internet in underserved areas

New state office, incentive program rolled out today in Capitol

HARRISBURG, PA. — As a leader of the bipartisan, two-year fight to secure high-speed internet for rural areas, state Rep. Pam Snyder welcomed today’s commitment by Gov. Tom Wolf to address the service deficiency through creation of a new state office and financial incentive program.

Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, who has worked closely with state Rep. Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, a Republican from York County, to bring broadband access to the 800,000 Pennsylvanians who lack it, was on hand as the governor unveiled his initiatives.

“I’m glad to see the governor recognize the importance of this issue, which I have been diligently fighting for on behalf of rural Pennsylvanians,” Snyder said. “I’ve been committed to making sure rural areas aren’t left behind or stranded on the technology highway.

“Moves like this mean that students, employees and businesses in rural districts — in fact, all of our citizens – can be competitive in the ever-evolving information age. Any effort that moves this needle in the right direction is a victory for those of us who’ve tackled this issue with passion.”

Wolf’s announcement was two-fold: Creation of the Pennsylvania Office of Broadband Initiatives, which is responsible for developing and executing a statewide strategy to expand access to every Pennsylvanian by 2022; and formation of the Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program, which will offer up to $35 million in financial incentives to private bidders in the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming Connect America Fund Phase II Auction.

“I want to ensure every Pennsylvania household and business has access to modern day high-speed internet,” Wolf said. “Equal access to the internet, regardless of location or income, must be provided if Pennsylvania is to remain competitive, if we want to offer every child the best education, if we want to live in a state where we all can access modern day healthcare options, if we want a state where our farms and other businesses thrive, and the jobs of tomorrow are created.”

Snyder said the state funds will augment the nearly $2 billion the federal government is making available nationwide to providers willing to expand broadband access in underserved areas.

Former Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, who has served the Wolf administration as a deputy chief of staff, will serve as executive director of the new Office of Broadband initiatives. Speaking at today’s event, Smith acknowledged Snyder and Phillips-Hill for their work on this issue.

In a related move, Snyder and Phillips-Hill announced a renewed push for their H.B. 1642, legislation that calls for an inventory of state-owned assets – such as communication towers, poles and buildings – that could be used to leverage the expansion of high-speed broadband internet to unserved and underserved areas.

Last year, Snyder introduced H.R. 630 urging the FCC to support a joint petition filed by the Public Utility Commission and Department of Community and Economic Development, which would safeguard federal Connect America funding earmarked for Pennsylvania.

SOURCE; Rep Pam Snyder press release