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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 8, 2020 01:31 PM
From: Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill
To: All Senate members
Subject: Inventory of State-Owned Assets for the Provisioning of High-Speed Broadband Internet
In the near future I plan to reintroduce Senate Bill 470 of last session that would direct the Department of General Services to conduct an inventory of all state department, agency, commission, or institution owned communication towers, poles, buildings, and facilities to leverage existing state-owned assets for the provisioning of high-speed broadband internet to unserved and underserved areas.

Despite the passage of Act 67 of 1993 and Act 183 of 2004 to ensure all areas of the Commonwealth would be provided with a modern broadband telecommunications network by 2015, frustratingly this goal remains unmet.

According to a 2018 Penn State Report, there were a staggering 11 million people across the state without access to high-speed broadband. Additionally, in nearly 95% of Pennsylvania’s land area, less than half the population actually receives high-speed broadband. These numbers indicate that only a small fraction of the state actually has broadband access that meets the definition set by the Federal Communications Commission (25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps).

 In 2019, the commonwealth entered into a $100 million, 20-year contract (with the option renew the contract up to an additional 10 years) with an out-of-state company to initially do precisely what this bill would hope to accomplish: inventory state assets to expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas of Pennsylvania.

However, the Department of General Services has shifted the focus of this contract to marketing state-owned assets in more populated (and profitable) areas throughout the state with no mention of providing broadband internet.

In fact, the contract no longer contains any language regarding improving access to high-speed broadband at all.

Since this out-of-state company is essentially a middleman in this process, it stands to gain potentially tens of millions of dollars on the deal without ever bringing high-speed access to a single home in Pennsylvania.

This legislation would conduct the inventory of assets, at a much lower cost by utilizing resources that we already own and would provision those assets for the intended purpose of ensuring our constituents can learn, work, and receive critical services with the benefit of reliable high-speed internet.

Previous co-sponsors of this legislation include Senators Yaw, Gordner, Hutchinson, Costa, Baker, Aument, and Stefano.

Introduced as SB442