PUC Approves First-Ever ETC Designation for Federal Broadband Deployment Program in Rural Pennsylvania With Auctioned Funding Support
Published on 4/11/2019
Filed under: Telecommunications
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today granted the petition of Tri-Co Connections, LLC (Tri-Co), a subsidiary of Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative serving north-central Pennsylvania, for designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC). The ETC designation will promote efforts to provide voice and broadband services in underserved parts of rural Pennsylvania.
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the ETC designation, which is required under federal law before a company can receive federal universal service fund support to build voice and broadband networks and provide related services in high-cost areas of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s incumbent local exchange carrier telephone companies are currently ETCs.
Tri-Co required ETC designation following its successful bid to obtain a portion of federal support that the Federal Communications Commission offered to, but which was declined by, Verizon Communications, Inc. Pennsylvania is supporting the Tri-Co broadband deployment with funding provided through the Governor’s Office of Broadband Initiatives and a grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. As a result, the network and services that Tri-Co plans to provide will deliver broadband over a fiber-to-the-home network at download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second and potentially as high as one Gigabit per second.
In recent years, the PUC has repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of lost federal broadband funding fueling a growing economic divide between communities and businesses that have access to higher Internet speeds, and those that do not. Additionally, the Commission has supported the launch of the Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program, and has launched a rulemaking process intended to more quickly resolve disputes over access to utility poles, which is a key issue for enhanced broadband deployment.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
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Docket No.: P-2018-3005127
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