The American Recovery and Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 provided $7.2 billion to support broadband projects in the categories of comprehensive community infrastructure deployment, state broadband planning and mapping, public computer centers and sustainable adoption programs. All awards were made by September 2010.
The state was successful in receiving over $36 million in broadband stimulus funding awards administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to support middle mile broadband infrastructure deployment, as well as broadband mapping and planning activities. These awards are discussed further below. Additional broadband stimulus funding was awarded to other projects which are not led by the state, but will benefit Pennsylvania either entirely or in part.
These federal investments complement and augment Pennsylvania Act 183 of 2004, which established one of the nation's most aggressive broadband deployment commitments and created a variety of programs to expand the availability and use of broadband services:
Universal Broadband Deployment
Act 183 of 2004 requires 100% deployment of broadband service (defined as a minimum of 1.544 Mbps downstream and 128 Kbps upstream) by Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) to every access line in Pennsylvania - even the most rural and remote areas - no later than 2015. CenturyLink and Windstream will complete their build outs by 2013. Verizon will finish by 2015. All other ILECs were completed by 2008. The law also required all ILECs to provide universal broadband deployment for schools, industrial parks, and health care facilities no later than 2006.
This grant program supports: (i) Outreach programs for political subdivisions, economic development entities, schools, health care facilities, businesses and residential customers concerning the benefits, use and procurement of broadband services; and (ii) Seed grants to aggregate customer demand for broadband services in communities or political subdivisions with limited access to such services and to permit customers in such communities or political subdivisions to request such services from a telecommunications provider.
This program created a mechanism for customers who do not currently have access to broadband to request them through their local telephone company. Through the BFRR program, customers of CenturyLink, Verizon, and Windstream may demonstrate that sufficient demand for broadband exist in their community by submitting an application committing to subscribe to a year of service. When the company receives applications from a minimum of fifty telephone lines or 25% of the telephone lines within a carrier serving area, whichever is less, the telephone company must make the requested or comparable service available to customers in that area within twelve months, although the law does allows for the request of a time extension for major builds.
This economic development trigger program permits the state to aggregate customer demand and facilitate the deployment of advanced or broadband services to qualifying businesses that the commonwealth is seeking to attract or retain. Under this program, the commonwealth may submit a request to those ILECs that did not complete their network build out by 2008 (CenturyLink, Verizon, and Windstream) on behalf of qualifying businesses in areas deemed a priority for economic development. If the carrier agrees to deploy service, it must provide an anticipating service commencement date within 30-days of the execution date of a contract entered into as a result of a BARP request. The service commencement date must be no more than one year from the date the contract was signed.
This grant program administered by PDE ended in June 2011. It supported grants to educational entities to: (i) Purchase or lease of telecommunications services, infrastructure or facilities to establish and support broadband networks between, among and within school entities and not for the provision of telecommunications services to the public for compensation. (ii) Purchase or lease of premises telecommunications network equipment and end-user equipment to enable the effective use of broadband networks between, among and within school entities and not for the provision of telecommunications services to the public for compensation. (iii) Distance learning initiatives that use the foregoing broadband networks. (iv) Technical support services.
Act 183 of 2004 requires the commonwealth to compile, periodically update, and publish, including at its Internet website, a listing of advanced and broadband services, by general location, available from all advanced and broadband service providers operating in the state irrespective of the technology used. All providers of are required to cooperate.