16 August 2023- Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA) Executive Director Brandon Carson announced the approval of the five-year action plan to expand internet access across the Commonwealth using $1.16 billion in funding through the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. Governor Josh Shapiro recently announced the Commonwealth’s BEAD allocation as part of President Biden’s “Internet for All” initiative. Shaped by feedback from Pennsylvanians, the BEAD five-year action plan is now with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for approval.
The PBDA’s findings encouraged collaboration across the Commonwealth through direct engagement with residents, businesses, and industry partners and the plan was developed with input from 21 community conversations across the state and more than 500 participants. Three roundtable sessions gathered feedback from digital equity stakeholders, workforce development professionals, and internet service providers. The Five-Year Action Plan also includes a survey that collected 5,920 responses in-person and online in several different languages and a public comment period that ran from July 26th through August 8th yielded 526 comments on the draft Action Plan. Together, this public feedback will allow the Commonwealth to drive out resources in an affordable and equitable way for all Pennsylvanians.
“Everyone in the Commonwealth should have access to affordable, high-speed internet,” said Executive Director Carson. “There are more than 276,000 Commonwealth households without internet access and over 52,000 without reliable access. The adoption of this plan puts us another step closer to making sure every Pennsylvanian has access to reliable, high-speed internet. Under the leadership of Governor Shapiro, we look forward to connecting communities across the Commonwealth.” Since day one, Governor Shapiro has said extending and expanding access to broadband across the Commonwealth and making connections more reliable and affordable for Pennsylvanians is a top priority of his Administration. Just last month, Governor Shapiro announced that the Commonwealth will receive $1.16 billion in federal funding to extend broadband infrastructure to communities that currently lack reliable, affordable, high-speed internet access in order to connect Pennsylvanians and ensure they can go to school, start and grow businesses, and access telemedicine no matter where they live. Following NTIA approval, the PBDA plans to begin awarding BEAD subgrants to approved, eligible applicants in 2024. The plan is a critical step toward achieving universal, affordable broadband access that meets and exceeds federally defined broadband speeds across the commonwealth.
The Five-Year Action Plan identifies expected obstacles to full deployment and discusses various implementation strategies. Additionally, it details how PBDA will work with a myriad of partners with the shared goals of improving digital access, generating equity, removing obstacles and barriers, acquiring digital skills and devices, fostering resilience, and enriching the benefits of connectivity.
The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD) requires the Five-Year Action Plan be submitted to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on August 12th for its approval. BEAD also requires a Digital Equity Statewide Plan, which is currently under development as well. As the PBDA awaits NTIA’s approval on the Five-Year Action Plan, the public involvement process continues with additional community conversations, focus groups, and the online survey. These additional public involvement efforts will continue to inform the Digital Equity Statewide Plan. The Five-Year Action Plan aligns its Goals and Objectives with the Digital Equity Plan to produce sustainable outcomes and a long-term solution to lack of high-speed connectivity and access to literacy programs and devices.