State Senate committee completes hearings on internet access

© Shutterstock

The Senate Communications and Technology Committee completed a series of public hearings Monday on lack of broadband in rural Pennsylvania.

The final hearing was held at the state Capitol and featured testimony from Curt Topper, head of the Department of General Services; Sascha Meinrath, from Penn State University; Kathryn de Wit from Pew Charitable Trusts, a Washington DC-based think-tank; and representatives from Comcast, the SEDA Council of Governments, the Fund for the Northern Tier and the Mercatus Center.

AARP submitted testimony supporting Senate Bill 470 and House Bill 305. The legislation would require an inventory of state-owned assets for the deployment of broadband access in underserved and unserved areas.

Meinrath investigated how Pennsylvania has tried to deploy high-speed internet in the past, including funding various telecommunications carriers access and providing tax incentives.

Verizon received significant subsidies and the ability to charge customers more to deploy broadband more than 25 years ago, Meinrath said.

“While it is difficult to determine just how much money Pennsylvania residents have already paid for this roll-out, the consumer watchdog group, Teletruth, has conducted a number of in-depth investigations looking at Verizon’s SEC filings, tax documents, and other records and what they’ve found is fairly astounding,” Meinrath said.