Phillips-Hill: Senate approves key steps to ensure deliberative approach to closing PA’s digital divide

HARRISBURG – The Senate unanimously approved two resolutions today authored by Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) that ensure the Commonwealth takes the necessary steps to study the need for high-speed internet throughout the state and ensuring taxpayer dollars were appropriately used in past efforts with broadband deployment.

Senator Phillips-Hill’s Senate Resolution 47 will establish a bicameral and bipartisan commission under the Joint State Government Commission to study and recommend improvements for the purposes of deploying high-speed internet in unserved and underserved communities. Her other resolution, Senate Resolution 48, directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to review prior laws from the mid-1990s and early 2000s that required telecommunications companies to use revenues collected through state-approved fees and taxes to close the digital divide.

“We have a huge need to ensure every community is connected in our 21st century,” Phillips-Hill said. “However, we have disparaging data that shows anywhere from 800,000 to 11 million residents are left without high-speed internet. What I know for certain is that our need for access to high-speed internet is only going to grow in every sector – from agriculture, healthcare, education, work force development and more – and if we want to remain competitive as a Commonwealth, we have to take a systematic approach to closing our digital divide.”

Phillips-Hill said she is mindful of past projects that wasted taxpayer dollars, including the more than $800 million in taxpayer dollars that paid for the deployment of a statewide radio system that is still faulty and requires emergency personnel and first responders to carry backup radios.

“We are still paying for remedies to our statewide radio network, which commenced during the Ridge Administration,” she said. “I want to make the right steps today so taxpayers 20 years from now are not still trying to figure out a solution.”

Both resolutions only required the approval of the Senate and will be carried out by the Joint State Government Commission and Legislative Budget and Finance Commission, respectively.

Both committees are due to report back to the Senate within one year, which is when the reports will be made available to the public.

You can listen to Senator Phillips-Hill’s speech regarding her resolutions here.