Senate Advances Measures to Boost Availability of Broadband

(HARRISBURG) – The Senate approved two bills this week to boost the availability of broadband by reducing regulatory burdens on telecommunications companies and utilizing existing infrastructure to further deploy high-speed internet, according to Senator Ryan Aument (R-36), who supported the bills.

Senate Bill 1112 would break down barriers to broadband deployment by modernizing the Public Utility Code and requiring the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to waive certain regulations, review regulations every three years and eliminate those that are no longer necessary or in the public interest.

Many of the regulations in the Public Utility Code were originally designed solely for telephone companies and have been in place for decades without being reviewed for relevancy. Changes in technology and in the telecommunications marketplace have made these costly regulations unnecessary.

House Bill 2438 would aid in the deployment of broadband by using infrastructure that is already in place for other uses. The bill would allow electric cooperatives to utilize existing utility poles to place fiber-optic lines if the placement does not adversely affect the value or use of the property.

Both bills would boost the state’s efforts to expand broadband in unserved and underserved areas in rural Pennsylvania.

“Now more than ever, it is critical that we rapidly expand broadband availability to those underserved regions of the Commonwealth that currently lack coverage,” said Aument. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students, residents working from home, and businesses alike need reliable internet service to continue studying, working remotely, and interacting with customers with as little interruption as possible. These bills will help increase that coverage.”

In his recent Restore, Rebuild, & Reimagine Pennsylvania report, Aument lists expanding broadband access as one of his top legislative priorities to foster the restoration of thriving families and communities throughout the Commonwealth that have suffered immeasurable harm due to COVID-19.

Senate Bill 1112 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. House Bill 2438 was returned to the House for concurrence on Senate amendments.

CONTACT:  Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420