The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority has released the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Statewide Broadband Plan. Gov. Tom Wolf said the plan “addresses both the immediate needs and long-term needs of Pennsylvanians.”
In a statement, the governor added, “Broadband is as essential today as electricity and water. But there is a digital divide in Pennsylvania. This plan will ensure consistent, affordable, quality statewide broadband to keep children learning, businesses growing, and opportunities abounding for all Pennsylvanians.”
The authority was created via legislation in December 2021 and is intended to serve as a “one-stop shop” for “all things broadband in Pennsylvania,” according to the governor’s office. The authority is also tasked with managing more than $100 million in Federal funding intended to close the state’s digital divide.
The newly released plan focuses on both the challenges and opportunities facing the commonwealth, including improving broadband service infrastructure and availability, digital equity and affordability, device and technology access, and digital literacy and technical support. “With a clear picture of the current state of broadband in Pennsylvania outlined – including up to 800,000 unserved Pennsylvanians – the plan includes actionable steps to achieve universal broadband access,” the governor’s office said.
To address the challenges with broadband service infrastructure and availability, Pennsylvania must:
- Rely on and maintain current and accurate data on unserved and underserved populations,
- Reduce obstacles to broadband deployment,
- Support sustainable, resilient, and secure operations and networks,
- Support and maintain a skilled workforce,
- Ensure minimal to no negative impact to natural resources or communities, and
- Promote or adopt mitigation strategies to alleviate supply chain challenges.
To address challenges with digital equity and affordability, Pennsylvania must:
- Ensure that multiple affordable service options are available,
- Ensure that affordable options are sustainable, and
- Ensure transparency.
To address challenges with device and technology access, the commonwealth must:
- Prioritize device funding according to need and return on investment, and
- Ensure that secure devices are made available and affordable.
TO address challenges with digital literacy and technical support, Pennsylvania must:
- Provide training so every person can meet foundational digital literacy skills,
- Develop a digital literacy plan, and
- Develop a technical support network.
“Equal access to the internet, regardless of location or income, must be provided if Pennsylvania is to remain competitive,” said Brandon Carson, executive director of the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority. “Broadband access affects every area of our lives – from work, to education, to health, and safety. Closing the digital divide helps enhance our communities and fosters economic growth and innovation for all Pennsylvanians.”