House passes bills to expand broadband access, funding
Two pieces of legislation supported by PSBA to help boost broadband access across rural Pennsylvania passed the House of Representatives this week.
House Bill 2438 (Rep. Owlett, R-Tioga) would allow electric cooperatives to use their existing poles to deploy fiber lines for broadband. Currently, some easements held by electric cooperatives do not specifically permit them to attach fiber lines to those poles to provide broadband, even though their members want this service. The bill would clarify that if a cooperative intends to add fiber lines to their existing infrastructure they cannot not change the physical use of the easement, interfere with or impair any vested rights of the property owner subject to the easement, or place an additional burden on the property or interests of the owner. House Bill 2348 (Rep. Causer, R-McKean) would establish the “Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program,” a competitive grant program administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA). The program would provide financial assistance to private vendors for projects that support the proliferation and availability of high-speed broadband service to unserved areas, particularly rural areas, in Pennsylvania.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the extreme connectivity disparities that hamper efforts to provide continuity of education across the state. PSBA supports House Bill 2438 and House Bill 2348 because they would help provide school districts and students with the tools to succeed in a modern educational environment.