Pa. to receive federal funding to expand broadband access

Federal funding in the amount of $200 million is being provided to expand broadband in unserved and underserved areas of Pennsylvania. 

The Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program was announced Wednesday by Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority Executive Director Brandon Carson. The program will begin accepting applications this May and will provide funding to businesses, non-profits, local government, and economic development organizations. 

Application guidelines will be posted on the authority’s website on April 10, and the application process will open on May 10. 

As many communities in Pennsylvania lack access to high-speed internet and many more cannot afford it, a digital divide has been created between those who have internet access and those who lack access. Gov. Josh Shapiro has made extending and expanding access to broadband across the state and connections more affordable and reliable a top priority of his administration. 

The Pennsylvania Broadband Infrastructure Program is funded through the Capital Projects Fund and will fund line extension and development projects, along with large-scale regional infrastructure projects. 

Projects must deliver upon completion service that meets or exceeds symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 Megabits per second, prioritization going to fiber-optic deployment. To ensure continued operation, projects must also include a viable sustainability strategy to maintain, repair, and upgrade networks. 

“The authority is pleased to provide this funding to achieve last-mile connections and increase speed for underserved and unserved regions in Pennsylvania,” Carson said in a statement. “This is the first grant program the authority is offering, and we look forward to seeing the impact it makes as we work to close the commonwealth’s digital divide.” 

Program requirements include the following: 

  • Affordability: Applicants must participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program and will be requested to describe and document their digital equity efforts to ensure low- to moderate-income households in the proposed project area will have sustained and affordable access. 
  • Grant amounts: The minimum request considered will be $500,000 and the maximum may not exceed $10 million. 
  • Labor: The Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act may apply to projects funded under this program. Prevailing Wage requirements are applicable to grants for construction, demolition, reconstruction, alteration, repair work, renovations, build-out and installation of machinery and equipment of more than $25,000. 
  • 25-percent match: Federal, state, or local funding received by the applicant is eligible towards the match requirement. 
  • Universal coverage: Applicants are required to ensure that all projects either achieve or are part of a plan to achieve universal broadband for the locality or region. 

The application process closes July 10, at 11:59 p.m. Grants are expected by the authority to be awarded by the end of 2023.