Legislation would commit $100 million to broadband

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Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) recently introduced bipartisan legislation that would commit $100 million in federal stimulus funding to bring additional high-speed internet service to rural communities.

Last year, the state created the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. The program provides grants that support broadband expansion in areas most in need of these services.

Preference is given to applicants with projects that already have federal funding allocated to them and to projects in underserved areas as defined by the Federal Communications Commission’s minimum speed requirements.

The repeal of the $5 million Mobile Telecommunications Broadband Investment Tax Credit originally funded the program, but more funding is needed

House Bill 1766 would direct $100 million in federal money to the fund.

“A lack of high-speed internet service puts rural communities — and the people who live there — at a significant disadvantage,” Causer said. “Students have fewer tools to learn, businesses are less competitive and patients are further limited in their health care options. We need to make a serious commitment to extending broadband service across Commonwealth.”

Broadband service is not a luxury but a necessity, Causer said.

The state House Consumer Affairs Committee is considering the bill.