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Remarks Announcing Grants to Improve Broadband Internet Access


Thursday, February 18, 2010



Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks Announcing Grants to Improve Broadband Internet Access
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Thank you, Dr. Kamlet, for the kind words.

It’s great to be joined here today with so many leaders from throughout Pennsylvania, including Rep. Mike Doyle. And of course Governor Rendell, who has been one of America’s most forceful advocates for improving our infrastructure.

The governor knows that revitalizing everything from our roads and bridges to our electric grid and our communications infrastructure holds the key to America’s economic future.

And we’d all do well to pay attention.

These are tough times for people in Pennsylvania, and for people all around America.

Economists say that the recession is over. But the reality is that there are still millions of Americans looking for jobs

And the Obama administration is of one mind:

No matter what the economic indicators say, this country is not in an economic recovery until every American who wants a job can find one.

And today, I am proud to make an announcement that represents another small but important step in that direction

I’m here to announce two investments that in sum, could soon bring high-speed Internet access to nearly three million households and some 400,000 businesses in Pennsylvania; while linking up thousands of community anchor institutions like schools, hospitals, libraries and public safety offices to the information superhighway.

This investment is being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which the president signed into law last year to put people back to work immediately and to lay the ground for long-term sustainable economic growth.

The Recovery Act has already brought substantial benefits to the people of Pennsylvania with:

  • Almost five million working families receiving $2.5 billion in tax relief
  • Displaced workers receiving another $2.6 billion in extended and expanded unemployment insurance; and
  • 351 transportation infrastructure projects valued at $1.4 billion

Also included in that act was over $7 billion to expand high-speed Internet access to underserved communities across America.

Because of the dedicated efforts of leaders from the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research as well as the governor's office, we’re investing almost $130 million dollars to help Pennsylvania expand its high-speed Internet capabilities.

This is critically important for Pennsylvania, where 35 percent of all households do not have a high-speed Internet connection.

And today, when you don't have regular access to high-speed Internet, you don't have access to all the educational and employment opportunities it provides.

The funding I am announcing today will help fix this glaring inequality.

The first grant is allocating over $99 million to fund the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network Project.

This project, which is the result of collaboration between Pennsylvania’s leading universities, healthcare providers, libraries and other community organizations, will lay nearly 1,700 miles worth of fiber-optic cables to expand high-speed Internet access.

It will directly connect 60 critical community anchor institutions like universities, K-12 schools, public libraries and medical facilities in 39 counties across South and Central Pennsylvania.

And this new network will become the main artery of healthcare information across the state by linking:

  • The Hospital and Healthcare Services Association of Pennsylvania;
  • the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • Penn State Hershey Medical Center
  • the Pennsylvania eHealth Initiative; and
  • the Mountain Healthcare Alliance

The second grant, will allocate over $28 million to the Enhancing Connectivity in Northern Pennsylvania project.

This project will lay 649 miles of high-speed fiber-optic cables as well as 612 miles of fixed wireless links. This will ultimately serve 32 counties in the mountainous terrain north of Interstate 80, including the cities of Titusville, Dubois, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.

Because of this investment, nearly one million households, over 200,000 businesses and over 2,600 anchor institutions will be capable of receiving high-speed Internet.

In addition, this project is going to make state government services more easily available to rural and low income residents across the region.

These new grants coming to Pennsylvania will pay dividends for decades to come.

And I want to congratulate everyone here today who helped put forward an excellent proposal in a very competitive process to bring this important investment to the people and the state of Pennsylvania.

Thank you, and congratulations.