(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) –An effort to expand broadband capabilities statewide in the commonwealth is now becoming a reality.

Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (Authority) released its Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Statewide Broadband Plan (Plan) to address both the immediate needs and long-term needs of Pennsylvanians.

“Broadband is as essential today as electricity and water. But there is a digital divide in Pennsylvania,” said Gov. Wolf. “This plan will ensure consistent, affordable, quality statewide broadband to keep children learning, businesses growing, and opportunities abounding for all Pennsylvanians.”

In December 2021, Gov. Wolf signed legislation to create the Authority to serve as a one-stop shop for all things broadband in Pennsylvania and manage more than $100 million in federal funds.

The Authority’s Plan to expand broadband internet focuses on its challenges and opportunities, including improving service infrastructure and availability, digital equity and affordability, device and technology access and digital literacy and technical support.

The commonwealth plans to meet this goal by:

  • Maintaining current and accurate data on unserved and underserved populations,
  • Reducing obstacles to broadband deployment,
  • Supporting and maintaining a skilled workforce,
  • Ensuring devices are made available and affordable,
  • Ensuring multiple affordable service options are available,
  • Ensuring affordable options are sustainable,
  • Providing training so that every person can meet foundational digital literacy skills, and
  • Developing a technical support network.

Brandon Carson, executive director of the Authority, stated that access to the internet, regardless of location or income, must be provided for Pennsylvania to remain competitive.

“Broadband access affects every area of our lives – from work, to education, to health, and safety. Closing the digital divide helps enhance our communities and fosters economic growth and innovation for all Pennsylvanians,” said Carson.

This is not the first broadband expansion act that the Wolf Administration has put forward. In 2018, they launched a $35 million Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program to expand broadband in rural areas.

Then in 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development launched the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program, a $10 million plan to further support the deployment of broadband infrastructure to unserved areas.