HARRISBURG, Pa (WTAJ)–Multiple county leaders met in a press conference Friday to discuss the improvements that will come to broadband thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed back in November. It serves to help with the nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness. This law is said to help rebuild roads, bridges, and rails, ensure clean drinking water, and put Americans with access to high-speed internet.
The Commonwealth will receive $17 billion from this law. Then, roughly $100 million of those dollars are planned to be used for broadband expansion.
The county leaders on the conference call came from Somerset, Cambria, Indiana, and Bedford counties. They all expressed clearly that this investment in broadband will help the 394,000 Pennsylvanians with little internet in the long run.
Jamie Smith, the auditor for Indiana County, said that this bill would close the digital divide that occurs for rural and metro and low-income families. He also added that 23% of Pennsylvanians are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Benefit, which helps folks afford broadband.
“We’re glad we have the funding to really push forward with it,” Smith said when discussing the divide.
Bedford County Commissioner Deb Baughman mentioned how the commissioners are moving forward with their plan to bring broadband to their county. This plan means that 95% of Bedford county will have broadband access by 2023.
Part of that plan including approving a budget that rebuilds 25 existing towers and builds 10 new towers. Baughman calls the law transformative in leveling the playing field for the area.
“Providing critical broadband infrastructure is necessary for rural Pennsylvanians to do their jobs,” Baughman said. “To participate equally in school learning. To access healthcare and remain connected to others, which has been extremely important during the pandemic.”