PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, created in December of last year, has released the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Statewide Broadband Plan to address the immediate and long-term needs of Pennsylvanians.

The broadband development authority’s plan to expand broadband access across the state focuses on improving broadband service infrastructure and availability, digital equity and affordability, device and technology access, and digital literacy and technical support, according to the governor’s office.

“Broadband is as essential today as electricity and water. But there is a digital divide in Pennsylvania,” said Governor Wolf. “This plan will ensure consistent, affordable, quality statewide broadband to keep children learning, businesses growing, and opportunities abounding for all Pennsylvanians.”

To meet the goals laid out in the plan, the commonwealth plans to do the following, according to the governor’s office:

  • Maintain current and accurate data on unserved and underserved populations
  • Reduce obstacles to broadband deployment
  • Support and maintain a skilled workforce
  • Ensure devices are made available and affordable
  • Ensure multiple affordable service options are available
  • Ensure affordable options are sustainable
  • Provide training so that every person can meet foundational digital literacy skills
  • Develop a technical support network

The Statewide Broadband Plan was approved on Nov. 17.

According to the plan, there are an estimated 1.6 million households (31.2%) without a computer and smartphone.

Additionally, according to the plan, approximately 537,500 households (9.7%) did not have access to a wired low-cost home high-speed broadband subscription before the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) were established. While the ACP can help provide high-speed broadband at low or no cost for those who qualify, the plan says it is undersubscribed.

“Equal access to the internet, regardless of location or income, must be provided if Pennsylvania is to remain competitive,” said Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority Executive Director Brandon Carson. “Broadband access affects every area of our lives – from work, to education, to health, and safety. Closing the digital divide helps enhance our communities and fosters economic growth and innovation for all Pennsylvanians.”