PRINTER'S NO. 1144
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
SENATE BILL
No.
835
Session of
2019
INTRODUCED BY LANGERHOLC, PITTMAN, STEFANO, ARGALL, MENSCH,
J. WARD, STREET AND BREWSTER, AUGUST 26, 2019
REFERRED TO COMMUNICATIONS AND TECHNOLOGY, AUGUST 26, 2019
AN ACT
Providing for funding of high-speed broadband service
infrastructure deployment in unserved areas of this
Commonwealth and for powers and duties of the Department of
Community and Economic Development.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Short title.
This act shall be known and may be cited as the Unserved
High-Speed Broadband Funding Pilot Program Act.
Section 2. Declaration of policy.
The General Assembly finds and declares as follows:
(1) The purpose of this act is to facilitate the
deployment of high-speed broadband service infrastructure in
unserved areas of this Commonwealth.
(2) The economic and business incentives to deploy high-
speed broadband service infrastructure may be insufficient to
ensure full access to high-speed broadband services in low-
density, rural locations and other areas of this Commonwealth
where the unit costs of providing service may not provide an
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adequate return on investment for private companies.
(3) Access to high-speed broadband services in unserved
areas of this Commonwealth will enhance economic development,
education, health care and emergency services in this
Commonwealth.
(4) Establishing a grant program to facilitate the
deployment of high-speed broadband services infrastructure in
unserved areas will further these objectives through new
private sector investments and is in the policy interest of
this Commonwealth.
Section 3. Definitions.
The following words and phrases when used in this act shall
have the meanings given to them in this section unless the
context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Department." The Department of Community and Economic
Development of the Commonwealth.
"High-speed broadband service." Any wireline or fixed
wireless technology having the capacity to transmit data from or
to the Internet at minimum speeds of at least 25 megabits per
second downstream and 3 megabits per second upstream.
"High-speed broadband service infrastructure." The signal
transmission facilities and associated network equipment
proposed to be deployed in a project area used for the provision
of high-speed broadband service.
"Overbuild." The deployment of high-speed broadband service
infrastructure in an area where high-speed broadband service
infrastructure has been deployed and high-speed broadband
services are offered to the public at the time of submitting a
grant application.
"Program." The Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Pilot
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Program established under section 4(a).
"Project." The proposed deployment of high-speed broadband
service infrastructure in an unserved area of this Commonwealth
as set forth in an application for grant funding authorized
under this act.
"Unserved area." A project area without access to broadband
service with minimum speeds of at least 25 megabits per second
downstream and 3 megabits per second upstream.
Section 4. Establishment.
(a) Program established.--The Unserved High-Speed Broadband
Funding Pilot Program is established. The department, in
consultation with the Governor's Office of Broadband
Initiatives, shall administer and act as the fiscal agent for
the program and shall be responsible for receiving and reviewing
all grant applications and awarding grants.
(b) Funding.--Funding for the program shall be no less than
$10,000,000.
Section 5. Grant awards generally.
(a) General rule.--Grant awards shall be at the discretion
of the department, in consultation with the Governor's Office of
Broadband Initiatives, and shall be limited to amounts annually
allocated to the department for the program.
(b) Eligible entities.--A nongovernmental entity with the
technical, managerial and financial expertise to design, build
and operate a high-speed broadband service infrastructure within
this Commonwealth is eligible to receive grant funding for the
deployment of high-speed broadband service infrastructure. The
nongovernmental entity must commit to using a minimum of 25% of
the entity's private capital to finance a proposed project.
(c) Other funding sources.--Federal, State or local
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government grants, loans or subsidies received by a
nongovernmental entity to finance a project shall not be counted
toward the capital investment requirement under subsection (b).
In addition to any grant award under the program, a
nongovernmental entity may use funds from a Federal, State or
local government grant or loan program to finance a proposed
project as long as the nongovernmental entity satisfies the
capital investment requirement under subsection (b).
(d) Ineligible projects.--Projects that result in overbuild
or are proposed to be managed or operated by a Federal, State or
local government entity are ineligible to receive grant funding
for the deployment of high-speed broadband service
infrastructure.
Section 6. Application process.
(a) Application period.--The department shall establish an
annual application period during which applications for grant
funding under the program may be submitted. The annual
application period shall be no fewer than 90 days and no longer
than 150 days.
(b) Form and contents.--An application shall be submitted to
the department on a form prescribed by the department in
consultation with the Governor's Office of Broadband
Initiatives. An application shall include the following
information:
(1) Evidence demonstrating the applicant's experience
and ability in building, operating and managing high-speed
broadband service infrastructure networks serving households
and businesses.
(2) A description of the project area, including a list
of census blocks covered by the proposed deployment. If a
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census block included in an application is currently
partially served by a provider of high-speed broadband
service, the application must describe the portions of the
census block that are already served and which constitute an
unserved area.
(3) A certification that none of the grant money
provided by the program for the proposed project will be used
to extend or deploy high-speed broadband service
infrastructure to areas with access to high-speed broadband
service at the time of submitting a grant application.
(4) A description of the high-speed broadband service
infrastructure that is proposed to be deployed, including
facilities, equipment and network capabilities and minimum
speed thresholds.
(5) The number of households and businesses that would
have new or improved access to high-speed broadband service
as a result of the grant award.
(6) The total cost of the proposed project and the
proposed completion date of the project.
(7) The amount of private capital pledged to finance the
proposed project and a certification that no portion of the
private capital pledged is derived from any Federal, State or
local government grant or loan program.
(8) Evidence demonstrating the economic and commercial
feasibility of the proposed project.
(9) A list of all government authorizations, permits and
other required approvals to deploy high-speed broadband
service infrastructure and a timetable for the applicant's
acquisition of the approvals.
(10) Any other information required by the department.
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(c) Publication.--Within five business days following the
close of the application period, the department shall make the
applications received available for review on the department's
publicly accessible Internet website.
(d) Overbuild challenge.--Within 45 days of the department
making the applications available on the department's Internet
website, a broadband service provider providing high-speed
broadband service to households and businesses within a proposed
project area may challenge an application on the grounds that
granting an award to the applicant will result in an overbuild.
The challenge must be submitted in writing to the department and
include the following:
(1) A declaration disputing that a proposed project area
is unserved.
(2) An affidavit of the broadband service provider
challenging the application of the provider's existing or
planned provision of high-speed broadband service within the
applicant's proposed project area.
(e) Review.--In reviewing an application and any
accompanying challenge, the department, in consultation with the
Governor's Office of Broadband Initiatives, shall conduct a
review of the proposed project areas to ensure that all grants
awarded are used to deploy high-speed broadband service
infrastructure to unserved areas. The department may not award a
grant to fund deployment of high-speed broadband service
infrastructure for any project area that results in an
overbuild.
(f) Criteria.--The department shall award grants for
projects based upon a scoring system, which shall be released to
the public at least 30 days prior to the beginning of the
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application period. Specific criteria to be considered when
weighing or scoring an application are as follows:
(1) The size and scope of the unserved area to be
deployed.
(2) The experience, technical ability and financial
capability of the applicant to successfully deploy high-speed
broadband service infrastructure and provide high-speed
broadband service.
(3) Length of time which the applicant has been
providing high-speed broadband service.
(4) The extent to which Federal, State or local
government funding support is necessary to deploy high-speed
broadband network infrastructure in an economically feasible
manner in the proposed project area.
(5) The proportion of the private capital pledged by the
applicant to finance the proposed project.
(6) The high-speed broadband service speed thresholds
proposed in the application and the scalability of the high-
speed broadband service infrastructure proposed to be
deployed to provide high-speed broadband service to
households and businesses.
(7) An affidavit that no project grant awards are to be
used to overbuild an area that is already served with high-
speed broadband service.
(8) Other factors which the department, in consultation
with the Governor's Office of Broadband Initiatives,
determines to be reasonable and appropriate, consistent with
the purposes of this act.
(g) Limitation.--In awarding grants, except as required
under applicable law, the department shall not consider any
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additional regulatory obligations, including, but not limited
to, open access network requirements or any rate, service or
other obligation beyond the speed requirements set forth in the
definition of "high-speed broadband service" in section 3.
(h) Time for project completion.--Applicants shall be
afforded a reasonable length of time to complete projects
selected for grant funding approval.
Section 7. Implementation.
(a) Regulations.--The department shall adopt regulations to
implement this act within 180 days of the effective date of this
act. The regulations shall include provision for submission,
review and approval of applications, award of grants and
administration of projects funded under the program, including
provision for reasonable oversight and reporting to ensure that
project grant awards are used as intended.
(b) Prohibition.--The department may not provide, by
regulation or otherwise, for third-party audit requirements,
liquidated damages provisions or provisions that are not
reasonably related to the deployment of high-speed broadband
service infrastructure by an applicant in accordance with the
purposes and provisions of this act.
(c) Construction.--Nothing in this section shall be
construed to preclude the department from considering an
applicant's financial ability to complete a proposed project or
making reasonable requests for information necessary for the
oversight and administration of projects awarded grant funding.
Section 8. Effect on grant recipients.
Nothing in this act is intended to subject a grant recipient,
solely by virtue of receipt of the grant award, to a statutory
or regulatory requirement not provided for under this act if,
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absent the receipt of the grant award, the requirement would not
otherwise apply to the grant recipient.
Section 9. Effective date.
This act shall take effect immediately.
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