Recent research has shown that there is some work to do in the state of Pennsylvania when it comes to broadband expansion.  Many of the problems associated with the lack of expansion have to do with the state’s topography, geography, and demographic distribution.  In fact, the Kauffman New Economy Index ranks Pennsylvania near the middle of all states in terms of broadband adoption and speed.  This is even despite the state enacting several broadband related programs in both 1993 and 2004. 

However, if Pennsylvania is gong to reach the challenges of a new era and expand broadband services to all residents, it will do so with the help of the American Recovery Act.  Thanks to the funds it has provided, Pennsylvania is beginning to make some inroads to better broadband coverage, especially in the rural regions of the state.  In fact, the goal is that all rural areas have broadband access by no later than the year 2015.  The state has enacted several programs to help with this goal including the Broadband Outreach and Aggregation Fund, the Bona Fide Retail Request Program, the Business Attraction and Retention Program and the Education Technology Fund. 

There are also four different guiding principles that the state is following in order to bring high-speed, affordable and reliable internet to every resident.  The first principle concerns putting proactive leaders in place who realize the importance that broadband has for economic, health and educational reasons.  Secondly, there must be accurate and up to date mapping done of the state’s broadband service and infrastructure in order to determine where new services need to go and where others should be upgraded.  Next, there need to be construction ready projects to serve both rural and underserved regions.  Finally, the public must also support a build out of broadband.  Public support will also help with financial issues as well. 

There are many advantages that Pennsylvania will experience once it expands broadband coverage to all regions of the state.  Probably, the biggest change will come in the healthcare field.  In 2008, the Commonwealth established the Pennsylvania Health Information Exchange to create or improve access to electronic health information.  As broadband service gets better and more reliable, more people will be able to participate in public health monitoring and retrieval of medical records. In the end, this move will help to save millions of dollars in healthcare costs that can be passed along to the consumer. 

Enhanced broadband services will also help in public safety.  With better broadband, comes better communication which is critical among police, fire and emergency medical workers.  In addition, it will allow various public agencies to all be on the same system allowing for better and quicker response times in the event of a crisis. 

There will also be new and enhanced collaborations between schools once new broadband infrastructure is built out.  This will be a huge new investment in the education of our youth and allow them better chances and new chances that they have never had before. 

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