Pennsylvania lawmakers advocate for stronger rural broadband access in state

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As the need for better rural broadband access continues to grow throughout Pennsylvania and the country, state lawmakers are prioritizing action to meet the requirement.

In Pennsylvania, state Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) introduced House Bill 2438 earlier this year designed to help remove regulatory barriers to the expansion of broadband internet service for rural communities in the Commonwealth. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf on Oct. 29 and will take effect 60 days after signing.

“This is great news for our rural communities, including our business owners, school students, teachers, health care providers and patients who need this technology now more than ever due to the pandemic,” Owlett said. “While broadband service can’t be deployed overnight, this is a major step in the right direction that puts us in a better position to extend service into even the most rural areas of our state.”

House Bill 2438 specifically helps clear the way for rural electric cooperatives , cable companies, or any entity that wants to run broadband cable using existing infrastructure and easements held by rural electric cooperatives.

“This law has effectively cut through some of the red tape that has been holding us back from better broadband service in rural Pennsylvania,” Owlett said. “We still have work to do, including a bill that would identify funding for expansion projects.”

U.S. Rep. Fred Keller (R-PA) highlighted the overall U.S. importance of expanding broadband internet access to rural communities during his participation in the North American Infrastructure Leadership Forum held last week. While discussing the crucial move for communities across the United States, Keller noted the particular need for broadband in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, citing its importance for telemedicine, education, and business development.

“Broadband development means so much more than just internet access. It means ensuring our businesses in critical sectors of the economy like energy and manufacturing are best equipped to innovate and be competitive in an ever-changing market,” Keller said. “Going forward, I am committed to advancing policies that will help develop our infrastructure to support American businesses and families.”

Also during his participation in the forum, Keller shared details on legislation he has cosponsored and promoted to support broadband expansion measures, including the Broadband Data Improvement Act and the RURAL Act.