FAYETTE – Sen. Pat Stefano (R-32) announced $1.1 million in funding will be used to support Fayette County and its broadband initiative to provide free broadband access to extremely underserved areas of the county.
To assist individuals with participation in telework, telemedicine and virtual learning, the county plans to use Community Development Block Grants-CARES Act funds to install/expand broadband coverage in the western half of the county. The initiative will target areas with the highest population of low-to-moderate income residents and with the greatest need for improved internet. Funds will be used to extend high-speed broadband lines to create hotspots to provide free broadband access in communities throughout the service area.
For many years, families and employers in the 32nd District have struggled with the lack of sufficient internet access. However, COVID-19 highlighted the need even more profoundly.
“After Gov. Tom Wolf forced students to attend school virtually because of the pandemic, we saw how poor internet access even creates educational disparity for students,” Sen. Stefano said. “Our area’s poor internet translated into learning barriers for students because they were unable to access the remote learning classroom as students in other parts of the state would easily be able to do.”
The funds are made available through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Sen. Stefano has been advocating for improved broadband access since he was first elected to the state Senate in 2014. Most recently, in December, he voted in favor of Act 96 of 2021, which improves access to high-speed internet in underserved communities by creating the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority. It established a single point-of-contact for federal broadband funding and includes safeguards so legitimate contractors are chosen.
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