Pennsylvania’s broadband authority reverses position on key state law before new federal funding arrives

The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority recently reversed its position on whether state law could cause problems for an unprecedented surge of federal investment for expanding access to high-speed internet. In the first draft of the state’s plan for administering more than $1 billion in federal funding, the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority said that to avoid a conflict with federal law it would waive an obscure state statute that restricts when local governments can build their own internet networks. But in the latest draft of the document, submitted to the federal government, the authority reversed course, declaring that there was no conflict. Under the 2004 law, local governments may not provide high-speed internet unless they first ask the original landline phone company serving the area to provide the service itself. If the company declines, the local government can move forward; otherwise, the company must provide the requested service within 14 months. Pennsylvania is one of at least 16 states that impose restrictions on when and how government entities can provide broadband service.

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