Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority Announces Partnership with Penn State Extension to Expand High-Speed ​​Internet Access

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (Authority) Executive Director Brandon Carson announced that the Authority voted unanimously on Nov. 10 to contract with Penn State Extension to develop and update state broadband maps to directly enable the Commonwealth to maximize its allocation of federal funds for high-speed Internet expansion.

“The signing of a contract with Penn State Extension will bring the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority one step closer to fulfilling its mission to expand broadband services to underserved and underserved areas of the Commonwealth,” Carson said. “The services provided by Penn State Extension will help bridge the digital divide and enable Pennsylvanians to connect at home, work, or on the road.”

Through this initiative, Penn State Extension plans to develop and update the state’s broadband maps; assess the accuracy of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) industry-provided data to inform the Commonwealth dispute process; provide geo-analysis, data analysis, and cost estimation for fiber on premises to support data-driven local decisions on broadband deployment; and promote digital equity in disadvantaged populations through strategic partnerships. The project is expected to run until June 30, 2023.

Brent Hales, director of Penn State Extension and associate dean at the College of Agricultural Sciences, noted that Extension is participating in this initiative following its successful partnership with the State Public Utility Commission to develop the map that helped Pennsylvania receive $368 million from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which is expected to enable 327,000 Pennsylvanians to access high-speed Internet.

“Our partnership with PUC has enabled Penn State Extension to better serve the people and communities of the Commonwealth,” Hales said. “We are pleased to support future investment in Pennsylvania’s broadband infrastructure and look forward to facilitating new opportunities for broadband deployment. I also want to acknowledge the efforts of our team and their tireless efforts and enthusiasm.”

The broadband initiative will focus on providing publicly accessible, open source mapping and data analysis tools where stakeholders can visually identify areas of unserved broadband. Additionally, the maps will make current data on FCC broadband, demographic and infrastructure data transparent to inform challenge processes for Commonwealth residents. Determining the correct number of underserved and underserved households in the Commonwealth will be critical in determining the state’s share of the $42.5 billion available under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for broadband deployment projects through a program called Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) . The rules for the BEAD program state that funding is awarded largely based on each state’s percentage of unserved locations, according to current FCC broadband maps.

Penn State Extension is an educational organization dedicated to providing science-based information to individuals, businesses, and communities. Penn State Extension covers 4-H Youth Development; Agronomy and natural resources; Animal systems; Energy, business and community vitality; Food safety and quality; Food, families and health; and Horticulture.

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