Today, Governor Wolf announced the successful completion of the first phase of his plan to expand broadband access to every Pennsylvanian through the execution of the Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program, which will help deliver broadband access to 9,236 currently unserved rural Pennsylvanians. The incentive program ensures homes and businesses in various areas within Erie, Crawford, Potter, Tioga, Mercer, Lycoming, and Bradford counties will have broadband access of at least 100Mbps by no later than June of 2022.
“This was an opportunity to attract investment in many of Pennsylvania’s rural areas and to encourage high-speed and high-quality service to unserved residents, businesses, and farmers,” said Governor Wolf. “This is a great first step in getting every Pennsylvanian connected to reliable high-speed internet.”
Wolf announced the Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program in March of 2018 along with the Office of Broadband Initiatives, charged with carrying out the program. Through this program, the Wolf Administration allocated $35 million in financial assistance to private providers bidding on service areas within Pennsylvania in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) upcoming Connect America Fund II (CAFII) Auction. The FCC CAF II Auction made $1.8 billion available nationwide to providers willing to expand broadband access in unserved areas. Any provider participating in Pennsylvania’s incentive program was required to exceed the FCC’s requirements and to meet the governor’s goal of providing 100Mbps or more service by June 30, 2022.
The program was a partnership between the Office of Broadband Initiatives and PennDOT. The $35 million of incentive funding was provided through PennDOT to fulfill its strategic goal of supporting intelligent transportation systems, connected vehicle infrastructure, and improving access to PennDOT’s facilities. In exchange for incentive funding, program participants were required to supply PennDOT with the use of current and future network facilities or services.
As a result of the program, PennDOT will be able to choose from a variety of service options from all three winning providers, with some of the benefits to include connections to offices and stockpiles, connectivity for intelligent transportation devices, and access to nearly 400 miles of fiber connectivity for 30 years. The incentive program utilized $17,053,215 of the $35 million made available by PennDOT.
“I am very pleased that PennDOT was able to be innovative in support of the governor’s broadband initiative and partner with three companies to bring high speed service to rural areas of Pennsylvania,” said Secretary of Transportation, Leslie S. Richards. “PennDOT’s funding will help support this effort as well as expedite internet service to many of our offices, field locations and connect critical traffic devices, cameras and message signs to our Statewide Traffic Control Center in Harrisburg.”
Program participant awards:
|Awardee||Award||Units Served||Counties Served|
|Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc.||$15,651,726||7,015||Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Bradford|
|Armstrong Telephone Company||$1,289,291||2,182||Erie, Crawford, Mercer|
Tri-County Rural Electric Inc. is the first rural electric cooperative in Pennsylvania to commit to providing broadband services to its members. The incentive program was essential to ensuring they could provide this critical service in rural Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania’s electric cooperatives have a long tradition of serving rural needs,” said Frank Betley, President & CEO of the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association. “This opportunity to partner with the commonwealth on expanding broadband access is a welcome development in continuing that tradition. It serves as a further demonstration of the commitment our electric cooperatives have in improving the quality of life in rural Pennsylvania.”
Additionally, Shawn Beqaj, Vice President of Regulatory Policy and Interconnection with Armstrong Telephone stated, “We are proud to partner with Pennsylvania’s Office of Broadband Initiatives on the important goal of expanding broadband access across the commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program has been an essential new and additive element to our company’s 50-year history of delivering telecom and broadband to some of Pennsylvania’s most rural and difficult-to-reach, unserved areas. Governor’s Wolf’s vision to connect every Pennsylvanian is essential if the commonwealth is to continue to participate in a modern, global “connected economy” and we look forward to our continued partnership.”
“Ensuring broadband access to every Pennsylvanian is critically important to Pennsylvania’s future,” stated Mark Smith, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Office of Broadband Initiatives. “Demand and reliance on broadband related technologies will only continue to increase for our businesses, healthcare industry, students, and first responders. We must continue to find ways like this to invest in this critical piece of our infrastructure.”
The Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program is the first, but not the only effort the Office of Broadband Initiatives will undertake to expand broadband access. The new office is also developing a longer-term approach to deliver service to those areas not included in the FCC CAF-II auction. This endeavor will require further assistance from the private sector, FCC or other federal agencies, and the state legislature.