Thursday, April 18, 2024

Schuylkill County to Receive $9.3 million to Increase Access to Reliable, High-Speed internet

The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority (PBDA) announced Thursday that Schuylkill County will receive almost $9.3 million to increase access to reliable, high-speed internet.

The announcement was made by the offices of Senator Dave Argall, Representative JoAnne Stehr, and Representative Tim Twardzik. 

$3.8 million will be funded by the PBDA and $5.5 million will be contributed by Verizon.

“Not having high-speed internet harms students at all levels, employees who work remotely, and patients who rely on telemedicine to communicate with their doctor,” said Argall. “This grant will allow high-speed internet to be deployed in the most underserved area in Schuylkill County. Everyone who worked to make this a reality deserves congratulations.”

“This investment will vastly improve connectivity in our district, ensuring more residents have access to reliable high-speed internet. Improved access to broadband will also empower rural businesses to compete on a broader scale and will ultimately modernize our area for a more prosperous future,” said Twardzik. “I'm thrilled about the allocation of this funding, and I'm grateful for Sen. David Argall's generous support in securing this critical funding.”

"This much-needed investment will bring greater connectivity to our residents and businesses, particularly in the west end of the county where residents have been underserved and eagerly awaiting this modernization,” said Stehr. “It's a pivotal step towards ensuring that more people are connected, businesses thrive, and our community flourishes."

“The Schuylkill County Board of Commissioners is pleased to learn that the county will receive funding to help areas that do not have access to high-speed internet,” said Schuylkill County Commissioner Larry Padora. “We are grateful for the time and effort that the broadband task force has put into this. We also like to thank our state delegation for all their hard work to make this funding possible.”

The Broadband Infrastructure Program is federally funded with a total of $200 million in competitive grants was awarded for projects across the state lacking high speed internet service.

All funds must be utilized by Dec. 31, 2026. Grantees will be held accountable for the prudent expenditure of awarded funds. The PBDA has the ability to claw back any unused or misused funds.

The Schuylkill County Broadband Taskforce said in a statement:

“The Schuylkill County Broadband Taskforce (SBTF), under the umbrella of the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber’s Infrastructure Committee, has worked in conjunction with Senator Argall’s Office, Schuylkill County Board of Commissioners, Schuylkill Intermediate Unit #29 (representing all 12 school districts) and a diversified group of taskforce members, including government, business and nonprofit leaders, libraries, municipalities, consultants and area Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that provide broadband services to Schuylkill County or those intending to do so in the analysis of broadband availability and procurement of same for the last two years.

“The SBTF is pleased to learn of Verizon’s Project 81 in western Schuylkill County and its award from the PA Broadband Development Authority of the Capital Projects Funds (CPF) for fixed broadband expansion. This is certainly good news. The SBTF will continue to evaluate unserved and underserved areas of Schuylkill County in an effort to achieve “Internet for All” and the expansion of broadband access and services in Schuylkill County. The SBTF has conducted thorough research, oversight, preparation and analysis. The process ensured that the strategic plans developed by the ISPs were cohesively evaluated to make sure that the grant proposals met the criteria of the grant program and identified unserved and underserved areas of the county.

“The Schuylkill Broadband Taskforce has taken its role seriously and proceeded with appropriate due diligence to engage and review ISP proposals for the CPF funding awards. The SBTF intends to continue a similar process to support and encourage ISPs to apply for BEAD funding for Schuylkill County projects. $1.2 billion has been allocated to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is extremely important to Schuylkill County that these broadband funding opportunities are evaluated and that ISPs are encouraged to work in conjunction with the SBTF to apply for, hopefully secure, and utilize these one-time funding sources for the betterment of our citizens, school districts, businesses, and nonprofits.”