Pennsylvania lawmakers are clearing the way for speedier broadband delivery with new rules that will make it easier to negotiate the telecom landscape, reports MuniNetworks.org. Already signed and approved by Governor Tom Wolf, HB 2438 gives electric cooperatives the ability to make use of existing easements. When broadband delivery is being deployed, affiliates can now take advantage of established pathways without having to forge fresh agreements with property owners. Cable companies are also permitted to piggyback on to co-op owned poles under the same terms currently in place.
Speaking in favor of the broadband-friendly legislation, industry leader Blake Fleegle of Johnstown, PA said, “Every county in our region is looking at bringing high-dollar earners to our region. Employers are finding people can be just as effective working in Johnstown as they would be in Washington, D.C., or Pittsburgh. But they need to connect, and that’s where broadband comes into play.”
The “Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Pilot Program Act,” or HB 835, is still under consideration but is making its way through the Pennsylvania legislature. When passed, this bill will create a $5 million broadband grant fund aimed at bringing broadband to unserved areas of the state. The Department of Community and Economic Development of the Commonwealth and the Governor’s Office of Broadband Initiatives would determine where to allocate the funds. The Commonwealth Financing Authority would then administer the distribution of the funds.
Like other states with significant rural populations, Pennsylvania is enlisting the help of electrical co-ops to reach its more remote residents, a move made easier with the passage of HB 2438, and presumably HB 835. Chad Carrick, President and CEO of REA Energy Cooperative approved of the legislation, saying, “It may be hard for some to believe, but there is a good 40 percent of Indiana and Cambria counties that either don’t have broadband internet access or it’s not up to snuff, according to our surveys to our membership.”