Thursday, February 18, 2010
U-S Commerce Secretary Gary Locke swung through Pittsburgh Thursday to announce a pair of federal stimulus grants that he says will bring high-speed Internet access to 3 million homes and 400,000 businesses in Pennsylvania. The first grant of $99.6 million dollars will lay 1,700 miles of fiber optic cable in nearly 40 southern and central Pennsylvania counties. Private companies will then be able to tap into that fiber to take the high-speed intent the last mile. Sec. Locke says it does not make sense for a private company to lay the miles and miles of main lines to serve a relatively small number of customers but if the government lays the “highway” the private sector can take it from there. The second grant will use $28 million to lay 690 miles of fiber in several northern counties and create 612 miles of fixed wireless links. That wireless network will use the public safety towers built by the state to put emergency service radio into nearly every square mile of Pennsylvania. PA Governor Ed Rendell says the goal is to have all Pennsylvanians served by high-speed Internet by the end of 2011. Right now about a third of all Pennsylvania households do not have access to high-speed Internet. The Pennsylvania telecommunications act mandates that those links be made by 2015. Locke says not only will this create jobs for the next year and a half as the fiber is laid, but it will allow businesses all over the state to market their products and services around the globe creating new demand and new jobs. Rendell says in this day and age, “if you do not have access to the Internet you do not exist.” A total of $1.3 billion was handed out nationwide in the first round of funding. $7 billion of the federal stimulus act was earmarked to help bring high-speed Internet to under served and unserved communities.