HARRISBURG − December 15, 2021 − The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill championed by Senator John Kane (D-Delaware/Chester) to expand access to broadband in unserved and underserved communities. Included in HB 2071 was language Senator Kane negotiated to require new broadband projects to be completed by “responsible contractors”.
“This bill will guarantee that projects commissioned by the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority are completed by responsible contractors,” said Senator Kane. “That means the workers who are on the ground laying the fiber and the cables to expand broadband access are protected by OSHA. It means the contractors for these projects have to comply with Workers Compensation and Unemployment Compensation laws, maintain licenses, and have the proper insurance for their projects. It means that as this bill expands access to broadband, it’s also going to create good-paying jobs for working people.”
The responsible contractor language was added into the final bill via an amendment Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) offered and Senator Kane supported in the Communications and Technology Committee on Monday, of which Senator Kane serves as Minority Chair. The amendment passed unanimously in Committee.
HB 2071 would create the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA), Pennsylvania’s first-ever official broadband entity. The Authority will be led by an 11-member governing board with representatives from several executive agencies, as well as the Governor’s office and all four legislative caucuses.
“Right now, 800,000 Pennsylvanians still don’t have access to broadband. Many Pennsylvanians don’t have access to high-speed broadband – that means no access to telehealth or telework, no access to e-commerce, no access to virtual learning. This bill is a massive step towards fixing that,” said Senator Kane in his remarks supporting the bill.
The PBDA will serve as a single point of contact for broadband expansion efforts in Pennsylvania. The PBDA will be charged with developing a statewide broadband plan for broadband buildout, coordinating public and private efforts to expand broadband access in Pennsylvania, accessing and allocating additional sources of federal funding, and assisting municipalities in expediting broadband deployment. HB 2071 also brings Pennsylvania’s minimum broadband speeds in line with federal standards.
“This bill came out of months of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations, and I’m so proud to have worked with my colleagues to get this done,” said Senator Kane. “Expanding broadband access is not a partisan issue. It’s not a regional issue. It affects all of our constituents and all of our communities.”
Pennsylvania is set to receive at least $100 million in federal funding for broadband access as a result of the federal infrastructure bill. The PBDA created by HB 2071 will help ensure this funding is properly and effectively allocated across the Commonwealth.
The bill now returns to the House for its concurrence and will then be sent to the Governor for his signature.