HARRISBURG (Oct. 21, 2020) Legislation to help expand rural broadband service across the Commonwealth has passed the Senate, according to Sen. Michele Brooks, who partnered with Sen. Joe Pittman of Indiana County to sponsor a similar bill in the Senate.
“Total broadband access has been a challenge for years here in northwestern Pennsylvania, and across many other rural regions,” said Sen. Brooks. “Now more than ever, students, residents working from home, and businesses need reliable internet service to continue studying, working remotely, and interacting with customers with as little interruption as possible. These bills will help increase that coverage.”
Many Pennsylvanians receive electric service through distribution lines owned and maintained by electric cooperatives. A simple revision to state law will allow the use of existing resources to install lines to provide internet service using the same utility poles.
“The infrastructure necessary to expand broadband exists, but outdated easements, originally intended for electricity or telegraph lines, do not explicitly allow broadband lines to be placed on existing utility poles,” Sen. Brooks said. “As a result, cooperatives are forced to reopen easement agreements to clarify that the existing infrastructure can be used for broadband purposes, which can be costly and cumbersome.”
House Bill 2438, like the Brooks-Pittman proposal contained in Senate Bill 1118, will allow electric cooperatives to utilize existing utility poles for broadband fiber lines, as long as it does not negatively impact the value or use of the property.
“This legislation will allow the use of today’s utility poles for future connectivity, saving significant dollars, while accelerating broadband opportunities for families, schools, businesses and our communities,” she said.
“These bills would allow cooperatives, including our Rural Electric, a supporter of this legislation, to install fiber lines along with their existing electric transmission lines. This would save taxpayer dollars and increase property values for those with broadband access,” Brooks added.
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