PUC Chairman Brown Joins Wolf Administration in Ongoing Support of Expanded Broadband Access in Underserved and Unserved Areas
Published on 3/20/2018
Filed under: Telecommunications
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chairman Gladys M. Brown joined Gov. Tom Wolf and other state officials to mark the launch of the new Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program, geared to spur broadband deployment projects in underserved and unserved areas of the Commonwealth.
“In recent months, the PUC has continued its statewide effort to preserve Pennsylvania’s access to up to $140 million in federal rural broadband funding,” Chairman Brown said. “While federal officials did not approve a joint petition filed by the PUC and the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, the door was not shut completely on future proposals, and the launch of this initiative further demonstrates Pennsylvania’s collective commitment to bringing broadband access to underserved and unserved areas.”
Chairman Brown noted that included in the Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program are financial incentives to private providers bidding on service areas within Pennsylvania in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) upcoming Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) auction, which is making nearly $2 billion available nationwide to providers willing to expand broadband access in unserved areas.
The Commission continues to emphasize that decisions by the FCC about CAF II will impact residents throughout the state – with 63 counties facing the prospect of losing funding to deploy high-speed internet in underserved areas. This has fueled a deep concern about a growing gap between communities and businesses that have access to higher broadband speeds, and those that do not.
Funding for CAF II is drawn from the federal universal service surcharges paid by state residents and businesses. It is intended to support the deployment of broadband service in high-cost areas, including many rural communities.
The FCC plans to conduct an auction to allocate the remaining available CAF II funding, and the PUC has been encouraging all concerned parties to work together to keep these dollars in our state.
A total of 31 counties face the loss of at least $1 million funding for broadband deployment over the next six years, including Indiana, Somerset, Warren, Clearfield, Lycoming, Washington, Huntingdon, Centre, Crawford, Erie, Clinton, Venango, Cambria, Westmoreland, Forest, Jefferson, York, Snyder, Wayne, Blair, Fayette, Mercer, Schuylkill, Columbia, Tioga, Mifflin, Chester, Lebanon, Clarion, Beaver and Allegheny. Additionally, eight counties – Indiana, Somerset, Warren, Clearfield, Lycoming, Washington, Huntingdon and Centre – could lose at least $5 million in funding for high speed Internet enhancements.
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.
For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.pa.gov. Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility. “Like” Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Facebook for easy access to information on utility issues.
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