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PUC recognizes efforts to bridge digital divide for rural regions

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has recognized Pennsylvania’s recent success in the Federal Communications Commission auction for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

A total of 13 bidders in Pennsylvania will receive $368.7 million over the next 10 years to bring high speed internet service to homes and businesses at 184,505 locations that are underserved, or do not have access to broadband that meets current federal standards.

The FCC indicates that over 99% of the successful bids are for 100 Megabit-per-second download speeds — four times faster than the “Netflix speed” benchmark of 25 Megabits-per-second currently used by the FCC to define access to broadband service.

According to the FCC, the Pennsylvania projects will reach an estimated 327,000 residents in 66 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

“This is a success for everyone in Pennsylvania who has worked to educate stakeholders about the FCC auction process,” PUC Chairwoman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille said in a statement. “This hard work will help residents and businesses in underserved regions get access to more high-speed broadband services.”

The PUC said that successful funding for these projects is the result of work by stakeholders who supported and encouraged outreach on this subject, including the Governor’s Office and legislators from across Pennsylvania, along with Penn State University’s Rural Extension Program, who developed a detailed and publicly-available map that showed all the eligible areas and the support that could be provided to interested bidders.

The PUC also said that only a handful of states are receiving more broadband support than Pennsylvania, with bidders and projects across the Commonwealth more successful than those in 43 other states. The federal program is intended to expand broadband service to over 10 million rural Americans.

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