Pennsylvania Broadband Initiative

News
About the Initiative
Broadband Investment Incentive Program
Why High-speed Internet Access is Important for Every Pennsylvanian
What is Broadband?
PA Broadband Initiative Team
Contact Us

News

About the Initiative

In 2018 Governor Tom Wolf launched his Broadband Initiative, a dedicated effort to provide high-speed internet access to every household and business in Pennsylvania.

We increasingly live in a knowledge-driven economy, making access to high-speed internet essential to our daily lives and our economy. Today, over 650,000 Pennsylvania residents still lack high-speed internet access.

Lack of quality internet access means businesses are not able to market themselves and conduct business online, kids miss out on learning opportunities and healthcare facilities cannot share information with specialists. The Governor’s Office of Broadband Initiatives will work to bridge the digital divide making Pennsylvania a better place to work, do business and live.

The Governor’s Office of Broadband Initiatives:

  • Manages the Governor’s initiative to provide high-speed internet access to all Pennsylvanians.
  • Serves as the Governor’s public advocate for broadband access and utilization.
  • Recommends broadband programs and policies for Pennsylvania.
  • Serves as the point of contact for PA broadband issues.
  • Encourages and advocates for policies that improve Pennsylvania’s Broadband infrastructure.

Broadband Investment Incentive Program

Launched in March of 2018, the Pennsylvania Broadband Investment Incentive Program made available $35 million in financial assistance to private providers bidding on service areas within Pennsylvania in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) upcoming Connect America Fund II (CAF-II) Auction. The FCC CAF-II Auction made $1.8 billion available nationwide to providers willing to expand broadband access in unserved areas. Any provider participating in Pennsylvania’s incentive program was required to exceed the FCC’s requirements and to meet the governor’s goal of providing 100 Mbps or more service by June 30, 2022.

Program participant awards announced in August, 2018:

Awardee Award Units Served Counties Served
Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc. $15,651,726 7,015 Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Bradford
Armstrong Telephone Company $1,289,291 2,182 Erie, Crawford, Mercer
Velocity.Net $112,198 39 Erie

The program was a partnership between the Office of Broadband Initiatives and PennDOT. The $35 million of incentive funding was provided through PennDOT to fulfill its strategic goal of supporting intelligent transportation systems, connected vehicle infrastructure, and improving access to PennDOT’s facilities. In exchange for incentive funding, program participants were required to supply PennDOT with the use of current and future network facilities or services.

As a result of the program, PennDOT will be able to choose from a variety of service options from all three winning providers, with some of the benefits to include connections to offices and stockpiles, connectivity for intelligent transportation devices, and access to nearly 400 miles of fiber connectivity for 30 years. The incentive program utilized $17,053,215 of the $35 million made available by PennDOT.

See News for official press release.

Why High-speed Internet Access is Important for Every Pennsylvanian

Internet access powers the global economy, provides greater access to healthcare, and is essential to educating our future generations. Governor Tom Wolf is making sure every citizen and business in Pennsylvania has access to high-speed internet.

Business Heathcare Education
High-speed internet access is essential to creating Pennsylvania Jobs. Every citizen deserves access to modern healthcare options. High-speed internet access allows every child the opportunity to learn, succeed and prepare for the global job market.
Pennsylvania businesses must be able to access the global marketplace to be competitive, grow market share, and operate efficiently. High-speed internet keeps our elderly at home with families by providing expanded healthcare options for in home care. Every child should be afforded equal access to online learning opportunities, regardless of location or economic status.
Pennsylvania farmers need access to the full benefits of state of the art technology, information, and equipment. Healthcare providers should be able to share medical records, test results, and patient data efficiently. It’s proven that high-speed internet improves overall academic performance and contributes to higher graduation rates.

“High-Speed Internet access is essential to growing our economy, expanding educational opportunities for our children, increasing access to modern healthcare, and improving the safety of our communities.” — Governor Tom Wolf

What is Broadband?

As defined by the FCC, Broadband or high-speed internet access allows users to access the Internet at significantly higher speeds than those available through “dial-up” services. Broadband speeds vary significantly depending on the technology and level of service. Broadband for residential consumers typically provides faster downstream speeds (from the Internet to your computer) than upstream speeds (from your computer to the Internet).

How Broadband is Delivered:

  • Fiber Optic Cable: Technology that converts signals carrying data through glass fibers.
  • Digital Subscriber Line (DSL): Transmitting data over already installed copper telephone lines
  • Cable Modem: TV cables are utilized to transmit data.
  • Wireless, Fixed or Mobile: Connects devices to a local internet service “over the air” via electromagnetic waves.
  • Satellite: Transfers data through a 2-3′ dish, modem, and clear line of sight to a satellite.

Broadband Speed Defined:

  • Broadband speed is measured in bits per second (bps), which is the speed at which data is transferred.
    • 1 Kbps (kilobits/second) = 1,000 bits per second.
    • 1 Mbps (megabits/second) = 1 million bits per second.
    • 1 Gbps (gigabits/second) = 1 billion bits per second.
  • The current FCC definition of broadband is a speed of at least 25 megabits/second (Mbps) download and at least 3 Mbps upload.

PA Broadband Initiative Team

Mark Smith — Executive DirectorImage of Mark Smith

Mark joined Governor Tom Wolf’s administration in early 2015 as Special Assistant to the Governor for Public Safety.  As a member of the Governor’s Senior Staff he served as the principle advisor to Governor for security and emergency response issues.

  • Read More Read Less

    Mark had the unique opportunity to manage all state planning efforts for the Pope’s historic visit in Philadelphia, the largest National Special Security Event ever held in the United States for a foreign dignitary, and he played the same role for the 2016 Democratic National Convention held in Philadelphia.

    Mark was later named Director of Government Affairs and Outreach where he managed the Governor’s regional offices and managed logistics and advance for the Governor’s travel. Additionally, he served as principal advisor to the Governor on development and implementation of policies related to local governments.

    Most recently Governor Wolf appointed Mark to the position of Executive Director of Broadband Initiatives to develop and execute a state-wide strategy to increase broadband access across Pennsylvania.

    Prior to joining the Wolf Administration, Mark served nearly two terms as county commissioner in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. He has also served on numerous boards and commissions including serving as board member of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP).

    Prior to entering public service, Mark worked as an industrial designer in the automotive and plastics industries.  Mark attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, studying industrial design.  He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, is a certified in project management, and is currently seeking his Masters degree in Management and Leadership.  In 2011, Mark was selected as one of twenty-two County Commissioners from across the nation to attend the National Association of Counties Leadership Institute in Washington D.C. provided by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Emma Winslow — Project AssistantImage of Emma Winslow

Emma is a Project Assistant for the Governor’s Office of Broadband Initiatives, to aid in the development and execution of developing a statewide strategy to increase broadband access.

  • Read More Read Less

    Before joining the Office of Broadband Initiatives, Emma worked for the College of Engineering at Bucknell University. Prior to Academia, she worked as a leasing agent and executive assistant in the oil and gas industry in California, Colorado and most recently Houston, Texas. She graduated from Penn State University in 2009 and is certified in Professional Land Management from the University of Houston.


Contact Us

Emma Winslow — Project Assistant
Email: info.pabroadband@pa.gov
Phone: (717) 783-2896