What’s next as PA prepares to spend $1.2 billion on broadband Spotlight PA

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State Universities — Before the state of Pennsylvania commits about $1.2 billion in federal funding to high-speed internet, it must find a way to use it.

is more than 270,000 locations Internet speeds that do not meet federal minimum broadband standards hinder access to government services, health care, and education.

Efforts at the state level to improve broadband availability have long been hampered by lack of funding given the extent of the problem. Now, the long-awaited federal grant will provide thousands of residents with fast, reliable internet connectivity.

After months of anticipation, President Joe Biden’s administration announced the distribution of subsidies in late June.Earlier this year, state and local officials Scrambled to give feedback on federation maps Used to determine the amount each state receives.

The Biden administration said the money would bring broadband to everyone in Pennsylvania. “People have been talking about the digital divide for decades,” Evan Feynman, a federal employee who oversees the broadband subsidy program, told Spotlight Pennsylvania. “We’re going to fill that void completely.”

So what happens next?

At an event Thursday at a state university focused on how Pennsylvania makes the most of its funds, experts, advocates, and state and local officials said much work still needs to be done. rice field.

As the Commonwealth prepares to receive this historic infrastructure investment, here are three things you should know about how the funds will be distributed and who will benefit.

We still don’t know exactly who has no access to broadband.

Despite recent improvements, there are some gaps in the federal map used to allocate funds to states. Before the funds were distributed, states and local governments could file objections if they found areas lacking broadband on the map were overlooked. Broadband authorities in Pennsylvania have filed about 50,000 complaints. more than half supported by the federal government.

But local officials complained that the deadline was too strict and that it was unfair to expect residents without broadband access to submit their comments online. Clearfield County Commissioner Dave Glass said residents had “zero awareness” and the maps were not user-friendly to the public.

Before the state of Pennsylvania issues future subsidies, local governments, community groups, and Internet service providers will also have an opportunity to tell the state which areas need funding. Feynman said it would take “a boatload of sweat and elbow grease” to sort this out.

Physical infrastructure is only part of the solution.

A large part of broadband construction involves laying fiber optic cables. In many cases, the state will subsidize the Internet Service Provider and the actual construction will be done by the Internet Service Provider.

But that’s just part of making sure people have access to the internet, said Rick Siger, the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary.

“We know the mission is not complete when the infrastructure is built,” said Sigur. “We have to make sure people can afford it and make sure people understand how to use it.”

In addition to existing federal funding, Pennsylvania will provide skills and technology to use the Internet;

Pennsylvania has six months to submit to the federal government a plan outlining how it will select projects to fund.

Another five-year action plan will be submitted for public comment from 26 July. State broadband authorities are also holding consultations. series He organizes community events and asks residents to share their experiences. investigation.

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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/07/pennsylvania-federal-broadband-funding-biden-admin-whats-next-explainer/ What’s next as PA prepares to spend $1.2 billion on broadband Spotlight PA

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