(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Once again, Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA) is asking for the public’s input — but this time about community engagement efforts.

The PBDA executive director Brandon Carson is asking Pennsylvanians to provide input on the stakeholder engagement process to create two plans: the State Digital Equity Plan and the Commonwealth’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Five-Year Action Plan.

The public comment period begins on Feb. 27 and ends March 10. 

After this period closes, the PBDA will host two meetings on March 16 to discuss updates to the plan based on feedback received:

  • 11:00 AM – in person and virtual attendance – Keystone Building, Keystone Desert Room, 400 North Street, Harrisburg, PA, 17120
  • 6:00 PM – virtual attendance only

“The PBDS understands that different users have different needs, barriers and preferences for engagement,” said Carson. “Feedback on our stakeholder engagement strategy and developing partnerships with communities, organizations, and individuals who are already doing this work is essential to our success.”   

The State Digital Equity Stakeholder Engagement Plan will focus on engaging eight primary populations required through federal guidance – aging individuals, incarcerated individuals, veterans, individuals with disabilities, English learners, individuals with low levels of literacy, individuals who are members of an ethnic or racial minority, or individuals living in rural areas – to offer achievable objectives, and measurable outcomes.

In addition to the plan, the PBDA will identify a specific number of individuals to form a Digital Equity Stakeholder Engagement Panel to help inform and guide the implementation of the plan. 

As part of the Digital Equity Act, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration received $2.75 billion to establish grant programs that promote digital inclusion and equity to ensure that all communities have the skills, technology, and capacity needed to fully benefit from our digital economy.

The State Digital Equity Planning Grant program, which the PBDA received $1.6 million for, will be used to develop a statewide Digital Equity Plan. Stakeholder and community engagement efforts are paramount to the development and ultimate success of the PBDA’s planning efforts.

Digital equity is also a core component of the BEAD program and the Five-Year Action Plan will incorporate digital equity and inclusion needs, goals, and implementation strategy.

More information about both of these plans can be viewed on the PBDA’s website.