Snyder, Phillips-Hill convene meeting of Broadband Caucus

Three dozen get updates from state officials on internet expansion effort

HARRISBURG, Sept. 25 – Led by its co-founders, state Reps. Pam Snyder and Kristin Phillips-Hill, the legislative Broadband Caucus attracted three dozen participants to this morning’s briefing on internet expansion efforts from high-level officials representing three state departments.

Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, and Phillips-Hill, R-York, have made a signature effort of bringing modern, high-speed internet to areas of the state that currently lack a level of service deemed critical to remaining economically, medically and personally competitive.

“We’re happy to see everybody rowing this boat in the same direction,” Snyder told participants at the conclusion of the 90-minute, information-packed session. “Hang in there with us … we’re going to get this thing done.”

Phillips-Hill added, “Know that our commitment and this journey continues. We’re dedicated to making this happen.”

Mark Smith, executive director of the state Office of Broadband Initiatives, said the governor wants every Pennsylvanian to have access to high-speed internet by 2022 – which means connecting an additional 370,000 housing and business units.

“This is obviously a large project with very aggressive goals,” said Smith, noting the need to partner state, federal and private-sector resources in a systematic buildout in unserved or under-served areas.

Four officials from the state Public Utility Commission also gave updates on various portions of the effort under that agency’s purview, including Commissioner Norman J. Kennard, who said, “The challenge is principally one of money.”

Noting that “there is, in fact, a broadband divide” in Pennsylvania, Kennard added the recent emergence of a heightened sense of urgency “to solve this riddle.” He ended by noting, “This (Broadband) Caucus is tackling a very difficult and important issue.”

Two officials from the state Department of Community and Economic Development – Sheri Collins, deputy secretary, Office of Technology and Innovation; and Sue Suleski, director of Strategic Initiatives – addressed the need and benefits of improved internet in areas where service is inadequate.

“We think that this is vitally important,” Collins said. “I want to applaud you for organizing this effort.”

Among the many facts and figures distributed at the meeting was this: $507 per connection is the average yearly cost to provide modern internet in rural areas.