Powell, Abney, Green introduce affordable internet bill

HARRISBURG, April 9 – State Reps. Lindsay Powell and Aerion Abney, both D-Allegheny, and state Rep. Roni Green, D-Phila., introduced legislation that would mirror the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program and create a similar program in Pennsylvania.

This legislation (H.B. 2195) would provide eligible households with $30 per month to apply towards their broadband internet access, an essential service that increases employment, educational and health outcomes.

“Over 739,000 households in Pennsylvania benefited from this federal program and while it’s shameful that Congress has yet to reauthorize funding, the General Assembly and the governor have the opportunity to help hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians access stable broadband,” Powell said.

Abney highlighted a specific demographic the bill would concentrate on by saying, “Kindergartners through high school seniors must be able to learn and access coursework online. Our bill would help provide these necessities and ensure learning gaps are bridged.”

“Governor Shapiro’s economic development strategy is bold and will ensure Pennsylvania prospers in the coming decades,” Powell said. “Increasing access to affordable broadband internet is a critical component to setting our economy on a path toward innovation and resilient growth.”

Pennsylvania’s digital divide is real, with 25% of Latino and 35% of Black households not having access to broadband internet, according to a 2022 Department of Community and Economic Development report. This puts a significant portion of Pennsylvania’s population at risk of falling behind households that do have broadband internet, both in terms of economic and educational opportunities.

“As we have moved toward an ever more online-reliant society, internet access has become an absolute necessity, for jobs, schools, basic necessities and more,” Green said. “Without internet access, people can get stuck on islands of limited opportunity, where low wages and compensation are pervasive due to limited competition. We must ensure that every Pennsylvanian has internet access that is affordable and reliable.”

“We hope our colleagues recognize the absolute necessity of increasing access to affordable broadband internet,” added Powell. “Without this legislation, the digital divide will increase, and Pennsylvania will be put at an economic disadvantage compared to neighboring states.”

The federal Affordable Connectivity Program is set to expire at the end of the month.