Pennsylvania releases plan to expand broadband access

PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — On Monday Gov. Tom Wolf announced that the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, formed last December, released the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Statewide Broadband Plan to address the immediate and long-term needs of Pennsylvania residents.

The Broadband Development Agency’s plan to expand broadband access across the state focuses on improving infrastructure and availability of broadband services, digital equity and affordability, device and technology access, and digital literacy and technical support, according to the governor’s office.

“Today, broadband is as important as electricity and water. But there is a digital divide in Pennsylvania,” Gov. Wolf said. “This plan will ensure consistent, affordable, and high-quality nationwide broadband so children learn, businesses grow, and opportunity abounds for all Pennsylvanians.”

According to the Office of the Governor, to achieve the goals set out in the plan, the Commonwealth plans to:

  • Maintain current and accurate data on unserved and underserved populations
  • Reduce barriers to broadband deployment
  • Support and retain a skilled workforce
  • Make sure devices are available and affordable
  • Make sure there are multiple affordable service options available
  • Make sure affordable options are sustainable
  • Provide training so that every person can acquire basic digital skills
  • Develop a technical support network

The nationwide broadband plan was approved on November 17.

According to the plan, there are an estimated 1.6 million households (31.2%) without computers and smartphones.

Additionally, according to the plan, about 537,500 households (9.7%) did not have access to a wired, low-cost, high-speed, home broadband subscription prior to the establishment of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). While the ACP can help provide high-speed broadband at a low or free cost to those who qualify, the plan says it’s underwritten.

“If Pennsylvania is to remain competitive, it must ensure equal access to the Internet regardless of location or income,” said Brandon Carson, executive director of the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority. “Broadband access affects every aspect of our lives – from work to education to health and safety. Closing the digital divide helps improve our communities and fuels economic growth and innovation for all Pennsylvania residents.”