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Community Meeting Held on Expanding Broadband Access

            Senators Tracy Pennycuick (Montgomery/Berks) and Jimmy Dillon (Philadelphia) organized a community meeting Tuesday to gather information that will help Pennsylvania develop an action plan to increase access to affordable broadband service statewide.

            The gathering was held at Montgomery County Community College Pottstown Campus.

            Pennycuick and Dillon, who chair the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, put together the meeting so that members of the general public and business and nonprofit communities could share their broadband experiences.

            The meeting was part of a larger effort by the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA). Through the public meeting series, the PBDA is receiving input to help develop plans to address broadband service needs in unserved and underserved communities.

            "High-quality internet connection is no longer a luxury, it's critical for being a successful employer, providing health care services and connecting residents to an array of goods and services," Pennycuick said. "As Pennsylvania embarks on the next phase of increasing broadband access, it's extremely important that we hear from the people on how they currently use broadband and what is lacking."

            "The input received through these community listening sessions is invaluable and will help shape the state's implementation plan," said Dillon. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime investment to enhance internet access in Pennsylvania. Thank you to those who attended for sharing their perspective on a more connected future."

            "Unserved" and "underserved" communities are designated based on the megabits per second (Mbps) it takes to upload and download files. An estimated 280,000 Pennsylvanians living in an unserved area cannot access 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed. An estimated 54,000 underserved communities cannot access at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload speeds.

            Topics discussed included methods of internet delivery from fastest – fiber optics – to slowest – satellite. Community participants provided input on their biggest challenges accessing the internet, choice of providers, monthly internet bills and more.

            Representatives of the North Penn and Pottstown school districts explained that not all students could access adequate internet service at home during the pandemic. Even programs such as the Affordable Connectivity Program could not close the gap.

            Pennsylvania is set to receive $1.16 billion in federal funding for broadband expansion and is expected to receive millions in additional funding through formula or competitive funding opportunities.  Pennsylvania's five-year plan for how the state is going to implement the federal funding has been submitted by PBDA to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for approval.

            "This is truly about supporting the people of Pennsylvania and ensuring they have the resources to live prosperous and healthy lives," said Brandon Carson, Executive Director of the PBDA. "Everyone should have access to affordable, high-speed internet – and the PBDA is committed to making that a reality."







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