Legislation to provide expanded broadband services heads to governor’s desk

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Legislation that would extend broadband services in underserved areas heads to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk for his signature.

Senate Bill 835 creates the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program that would provide grants to improve access to high-speed broadband internet in rural areas that do not have access to reliable networks.

Funding would be limited to groups that have demonstrated the ability to construct and administer internet services. They would be required to fund a minimum of 25 percent of the total project.

“Access to broadband, especially for those who telework, senior citizens, fire and emergency workers and students who are taking classes remotely has become even more crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic,” state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Bradford County) said. “I was happy to support this important piece of legislation that will certainly benefit our rural residents, and I’m hopeful that Governor Wolf will approve this bill.”

State Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-Cambria County) sponsored the bill.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband has become crucial, Langerholc said, for those taking classes remotely, working from home, fire and emergency workers, senior citizens, and residents who need to be connected to services and information.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority would administer the grant program.