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Feds giving more computer and Wi-Fi access to 12,000 residents

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(The Center Square) – A $20 million federal grant approved recently will bring more public computer and wireless internet access to 12,000 residents across Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Department of Treasury said the state’s Digital Access Opportunity Grant Program targets communities in broadband deserts across Pennsylvania. Libraries, schools and other public places can use state loans to buy more computers for in-home or on-site use, as well as offer digital literacy training for residents.

Supporters, like Democratic Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, say the investment opens the door to higher education, telehealth services and job opportunities that may have been off limits before.

“This funding won’t just provide more laptops and Wi-Fi devices to people who need them, it will help break down the barrier that’s keeping a young mother from a higher education, a small business from reaching a new market, and a grandparent from staying in touch with their grandkids,” Casey said.

“Highspeed internet is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity,” Fetterman added.

At the end of 2022, Pennsylvania released its plan to bring “robust high-speed broadband infrastructure” to unserved and overlooked parts of the commonwealth.

Powered by $400 million from various federal pots of cash, the public learned in 2023 that the state will receive close to $2 billion for those efforts through 2028. During the year, the state has issued more plans – while officials and industry leaders have noted problems and successes.

Labor shortages, permitting bottlenecks and wage requirements make Pennsylvania’s infrastructure build-out tedious complex. Still, service providers are ready to plug the holes in the state’s “Swiss cheese” network.

From FCC data, Pennsylvania has more than 279,000 unserved locations where internet speeds are less than 25 mbps, the definition of broadband. Another 54,000 locations count as underserved.

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