HARRISBURG – Reps. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) and George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), prime sponsors of a bill to boost broadband internet service in the state’s most rural communities, today praised the bill’s unanimous passage by members of the Senate Communications and Technology Committee.
“Reliable, high-speed internet service is an absolute necessity in this day and age, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Causer said. “Our students and teachers need it to improve educational opportunities. Businesses need it to stay competitive and better serve their customers. And our doctors and patients need it to improve access to health care.”
House Bill 2348
would create the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program and fund it, in part, by repealing the Mobile Telecommunications Broadband Investment Tax Credit. This credit is currently limited to $5 million per year and is available to mobile telecommunication providers to invest in broadband equipment in Pennsylvania. Under the bill, the $5 million would instead be directed toward a grant program.
“The point of a tax credit is to generate investment that wouldn’t otherwise be made, but a review of this tax credit by the nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office showed as much as 90% of the spending would have occurred without it,” said Dunbar, who serves as vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We can’t afford to wait any longer to do anything and everything we can to get broadband service into our rural areas.”
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 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Representative Martin T. Causer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler