April 7, 2021
Pennsylvania’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries Announces Project to Provide Broadband Internet Access to Underserved Communities
Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (PDE) Office of Commonwealth Libraries (OCL) and the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) today announced the Libraries Connect Communities and Broadband Resources project, an initiative to improve access to broadband services in and beyond libraries across the commonwealth’s underserved and unserved communities.
“Libraries are community anchor institutions that play a critical role in providing free access to technology to those who may not have access otherwise,” said Glenn R. Miller, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. “Throughout the pandemic, we have heard countless stories of individuals and families who have used library devices or Wi-Fi from parking lots to complete homework, attend classes or job interviews, connect with loved ones, and more. Libraries are community hubs that provide critical resources and tools that support families, schools, municipalities, businesses, and organizations. This project will help libraries and their communities build technology capacity for Pennsylvanians in need.”
The Wolf Administration provided a $1.4 million grant with Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds to the project. Public libraries will serve as community liaisons to provide important broadband information, resources, and project identification to their communities in need. Under the guidance of OCL, KINBER will help to build capacity through library staff for broadband internet solutions and connected resources.
“KINBER is very pleased to collaborate with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries,” said Nathan Flood, president, and CEO of KINBER. “KINBER understands the needs and services that are essential to support the targeted communities across the state who have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic due to lack of available connectivity and broadband resources.”
The Libraries Connect Communities and Broadband project will:
● Provide participating libraries with the resources and infrastructure to strengthen their abilities to serve the community through broadband internet access;
● Host training and education opportunities for participating librarians and staff through workshops, virtual events, and webinars so libraries can help stakeholders to organize county wide broadband recommendations;
● Identify critical broadband needs and projects within the community.
As a statewide research, education, and community network, KINBER is a non-profit that provides broadband connectivity, fosters collaboration, and promotes the innovative use of digital technologies throughout Pennsylvania.
Expanding Broadband Access with Back to Work PA
Expanding broadband access to support Pennsylvania’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and bolster economic growth is a priority of Governor Tom Wolf’s “Back to Work PA” plan. The proposal prioritizes making high-speed internet access available to all Pennsylvanians by building out this infrastructure in unserved areas of the commonwealth. Back to Work PA is founded on the recommendations of the private sector in partnership with the Wolf Administration through the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center. Back to Work PA would be funded by a commonsense extraction tax on the natural gas industry, which would allow for an injection of $3 billion to enhance existing initiatives and create new, innovative programs to address barriers that are holding back our workforce.
The KINBER website has more information about the nonprofit organization.