PA to expand Broadband Infrastructure
HARRISBURG â€“ Governor Edward G. Rendell today said the commonwealth has applied for $108 million in federal funds to expand high-speed Internet service to people, institutions and communities throughout Pennsylvaniaâ€”an investment that will boost the stateâ€™s economic development and education systems for years to come.
â€śBroadband Internet access is as crucial to competitiveness as are skilled workers, transportation, water and energy,â€ť Governor Rendell said. â€śYou canâ€™t overstate its impact on public services, local economies and quality of life. These federal dollars offer an unprecedented opportunity for Pennsylvania to extend the strides weâ€™ve already made in making broadband available to everyone.â€ť
Expanding reliable, affordable high-speed connectivity will preserve and create jobs, help those impacted by the recession, spur advances in science and health, and provide long-term benefits in rural and urban communities, the Governor added.
Pennsylvaniaâ€™s seven applications are competing for some of the $7.2 billion available nationwide for broadband development under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA. The funds would advance the stateâ€™s existing broadband development efforts, as outlined in an aggressive strategy released in July. Applications include efforts to:
â€˘ Aggregate broadband purchases by educational facilities.
The Department of Education applied for $49.7 million toward a $113.2 million plan to connect 514 schools, libraries, colleges and universities in a seamless network to close the digital divide, in part by aggregating demand to diminish disparities in price and availability between urban and rural areas. Aggregated demand makes capital investment decisions easier for telecommunication providers.
â€˘ Extend communications infrastructure to reach un-served and underserved areas.
The state Office of Administration applied for $28.7 million toward a $35.9 million venture to extend services to a large area of northern Pennsylvania that currently is not served, or underserved, by commercial providers. It would help increase network capacity and enhance existing networks â€“ cables, wires, towers, antennae and other microwave and land-based infrastructure â€“ to make it more economically feasible for providers of so-called â€ślast mileâ€ť services to reach homes, businesses and other rural customers. The proposal includes an east-west corridor between I-80 and Pennsylvaniaâ€™s northern border, which includes 988,000 households in 32 counties, 202,000 businesses, 1,222 public safety agencies, 1,180 educational entities, and 255 health care facilities.
â€˘ Train educators to enhance instruction by using broadband Internet effectively.
The Department of Education applied for $12.5 million toward a $25 million project to train approximately 1,500 teachers and other education professionals on the effective use of broadband for learning, as well as to educate students, parents, school board members and community members about the value of broadband in cost-effective education.
â€˘ Help communities, businesses, first-responders and institutions effectively use broadband.
The Department of Community and Economic Development applied for $7.9 million toward a $10 million initiative that will help communities, businesses, first-responders and anchor institutions. The initiative will be carried out by 13 economic development organizations: DCED, the Center for eBusiness and Advanced IT, PennTAP at Penn State, and the stateâ€™s 10 economic development districts, which are comprised of the seven Appalachian Regional Commission-designated local development districts, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Regional Economic Development District Initiative of South-Central Pennsylvania, and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.
â€˘ Create broadband centers at libraries, community colleges and other educational facilities.
The Department of Education applied for $5 million toward a $10 million effort to expand broadband access beyond classroom walls into libraries and community colleges. It provides equipment, software and other technology, training, technical support, management and oversight for 100 centers across the state.
â€˘ Map broadband availability and adoption throughout Pennsylvania.
Together, the Office of Administration and DCED applied for $4.5 million to build upon current efforts to map the statewide availability and adoption of broadband service. Non-proprietary information will be made public and searchable at street-address level. Pennsylvaniaâ€™s legislatively mandated broadband mapping inventory, begun in 2004, was one of the first such enactments in the country. If fully funded, $4 million of this grant would be used over the next five years to gather more comprehensive and accurate state-level broadband mapping data, to develop state-level broadband maps, and to aid in the development of a national broadband map.Â As part of the application, the state also requested $500,000 to perform statewide broadband planning activities and to fund statewide and regional collaboration opportunities.
â€˘ Provide broadband Internet service to veteransâ€™ homes.
The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs applied for $381,360 toward a $476,700 effort to provide access, education and training to 1,500 residents at the six state veteransâ€™ homes. This initiative will provide eight computers and ancillary devices for each of the six veteransâ€™ homes; offer training to residents; and provide on-site technical support and troubleshooting to make sure the broadband service and computers are maintained.
Complete applications for each of these initiatives, as well as the stateâ€™s comprehensive broadband strategy, are available at www.recovery.pa.gov. The information can also be found at www.newpa.com, keyword: Broadband initiatives.