HARRISBURG – Working to bring broadband services to the state’s rural communities, Reps. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) and George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland) have introduced the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program.
“Access to high-speed internet is not a luxury but a necessity for our students and teachers, our farmers and business owners, and our doctors and patients,” Causer said. “This proposal will address one of the biggest challenges to broadband expansion by providing some much-needed funding for the unserved and underserved areas of the Commonwealth.”
House Bill 2348 seeks to repeal the Mobile Telecommunications Broadband Investment Tax Credit. This credit is limited to $5 million per year and is available to mobile telecommunication providers to invest in broadband equipment in Pennsylvania. The $5 million would instead be directed toward a grant program.
“As part of our annual Performance Based Budgeting process each year, the Independent Fiscal Office found approximately 90% of the spending incentivized with this tax credit would have occurred without it,” said Dunbar, who serves as vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We can put this funding to work in a far better way in the form of a competitive grant program to promote investment in some of the areas most in need of broadband service.”
Under the bill, the grant program would be administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. Along with the $5 million appropriation called for in the bill, additional state and federal funding could be directed to the account and used for grant awards.
Entities eligible for grants would include nongovernmental entities with the technical, managerial and financial expertise to design, build and operate high-speed broadband service infrastructure within this Commonwealth; and rural electric cooperatives or local development districts in the Commonwealth. Any nongovernmental entity that qualifies for a grant would have to invest from its own funds at least 25% of the project cost.
Preference would be given to projects in the most unserved areas of the Commonwealth as defined by the Federal Communications Commission’s minimum speed requirements and to projects that already have federal funding allocated to them.
The bill was introduced with 20 cosponsors.
Representative Martin T. Causer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler