UPMC backs 2 broadband expansion bills in Pennsylvania

UPMC expressed support for two broadband bills in the Pennsylvania legislature that aim to increase internet access across the state, according to the Pittsburgh-based health system's July 14 blog post.

More than 800,000 Pennsylvanians, or 6 percent of the state's population, lack access to broadband internet, the blog post states. This lack of broadband affects primarily rural communities and medically underserved areas, which benefit from telemedicine in ways such as access to high quality healthcare, earlier detection and faster diagnosis, and less travel and travel expenses.

To implement proper tech infrastructure and increase broadband access, UPMC said it strongly supports Senate Bill 1118 and House Bill 2438. If passed and signed into law, the proposed legislation would allow electric cooperatives, or independent electric utilities, to use existing infrastructure to deploy fiber optic lines for broadband. Doing so would eliminate the need for easement agreements, which are contracts where the property owner allows another party to use the property for a specific reason and length of time, according to the blog post. 

"Currently, electric cooperatives, which are privately owned by the members they serve, must reopen these agreements with property owners to clarify existing infrastructure can be used for broadband," the blog post states. "While there are no negative impacts on the property, representatives from the cooperatives must go door to door and request changes in the agreements, which is both costly and time consuming."

The bills would ensure more Pennsylvanians get access to broadband internet without requiring additional tax-payer dollars, the post concluded.

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