Senate Approves Landmark Bipartisan Broadband Legislation

HARRISBURG – Sen. Pat Stefano (R-32) applauded the Senate’s unanimous passage of House Bill 2071 to improve access to high-speed internet in underserved communities by creating the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA).

The legislation would establish a single point-of-contact for federal broadband funding and includes safeguards so legitimate contractors are chosen. It would also provide oversight by the Auditor General.

Primarily, the PBDA would be tasked with creating a broadband plan that allows the state to apply for competitively awarded federal infrastructure money. The bill would also require the state to create a database to monitor all broadband deployment activities across the state.

“Access to broadband remains a top challenge of the district, impacting both students and employees when they were forced from operating in person because of the pandemic. It also affects a critical industry in the commonwealth – agriculture – as technology is available for farmers to monitor their crops and livestock,” Sen. Stefano said. “Creating the PBDA would be a step in the right direction, and I hope it receives the remaining necessary support soon.”

Entities eligible for funding must have technical, managerial and financial expertise to design, build and operate high-speed service infrastructure. Contractors that have defaulted on prior projects or have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in the last decade due to their past performance will be ineligible for funding.

The PBDA would be governed by 11 members, including five individuals representing both political parties of the Senate and House, as well as the governor. Subcommittees consisting of experts within the field may also be created.

Under the plan, the PBDA will dissolve within 10 years or when all federal funds are exhausted.

Having received support from the Senate, the bill heads back to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote before advancing to the governor’s desk for his signature.

 

CONTACT: Mark Fetzko, mfetzko@pasen.gov