Lack of Affordable, Accessible Broadband Holding Back Pennsylvania’s Schools

Gov. Tom Wolf discusses investments to improve broadband access in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Capital Star

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Pennsylvania is set to receive the first installment of federal funding to improve and expand broadband internet access across the commonwealth, Gov. Tom Wolf said last week.

State and federal officials joined Wolf in the Governor’s Reception room of the state Capitol on Thursday to announce that $6.6 million from President Joe Biden’s “Internet for All” initiative is on its way to Pennsylvania.

The federal infusion is the first installment of more than $100 million Pennsylvania is set to receive for projects that expand and improve high-speed internet access in urban and rural areas of the commonwealth.

“We really need to do a good job of making sure every corner of Pennsylvania is connected in a robust way to the internet,” Wolf, who leaves office in January, said. “This $6.6 million is the beginning of a generational change waiting for Pennsylvanians.”

The funds, and broadband projects statewide, are overseen by the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, created by Wolf in 2021 as a 12-member independent agency of the Department of Community and Economic Development.

In mid-November, the authority released its statewide plan for spending the money to expand broadband access in Pennsylvania.

“With guidance from the Pennsylvania Broadband Authority, distribution will be carefully targeted for guaranteed progress,” Wolf said.

Wolf said that the lack of affordable and accessible broadband is hindering Pennsylvania’s economic growth.

“The lack of consistent, affordable, quality statewide broadband keeps children from learning. It keeps businesses from growing, it keeps the job market for workers much more limited than it should be, and it reduces medical care options for all of us,” Wolf said. “It’s one of the biggest challenges holding Pennsylvania’s economy back right now.”

Western Beaver County School District and Blackhawk School District Superintendent Dr. Rob Postupac echoed Wolf’s comments, adding that “families living without broadband face significant barriers in educational opportunities, employment opportunities and access to basic needs such as healthcare through telemedicine.”

“For too long now, those in our rural communities have had to live in digital darkness,” Postupac said. “The time has come to tackle this issue.”

Earlier this week, the Wolf administration’s broadband authority asked Pennsylvanians to review Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maps, which are used in accessibility and infrastructure projects, for accuracy before they are finalized in mid-January.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

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