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|Broadband blind spots, open registration, Oath Keepers, highway funds, council exodus, lobbying tab, and an epic fail. It's Thursday.|
Pennsylvania is set to receive a flood of federal dollars to improve broadband access, but first it must pinpoint where the service is and isn't.
Spotlight PA reports the FCC is set to unveil new, granular maps of U.S. broadband availability in November that will dictate how much money Pennsylvania receives from the federal government through a major new grant initiative, as well as which areas of the state get priority.
Up to $1 billion will be allocated for broadband expansion here.
But localities will need to challenge any inaccuracies in the new maps that might lower their share. Experts have also urged the state to prepare its own data to ensure millions of grant dollars aren't needlessly lost.
Read Spotlight PA's full report: New maps will help decide where up to $1 billion in federal money goes for Pa. broadband expansion.
THE CONTEXT: The new maps will be based on data reported to the FCC by internet service providers. But local governments will be able to challenge the new maps if a provider reports to the FCC that broadband speeds are available at a particular location but residents disagree.
Brandon Carson, executive director of Pennsylvania's Broadband Development Authority, said the agency is exploring the compilation of its own statewide broadband maps and "talking through" strategies.
At a May hearing organized by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a state agency that researches policy for the General Assembly, experts urged the state to collect its own data to push back on any inaccuracies in the new maps or risk losing out on millions of dollars in federal funding.
According to the most recent data, 4% of Pennsylvanians can't get internet access at broadband speeds. That number rises to 13% in rural areas. Both figures, released last year, are almost certainly undercounts.
|NOTABLE / QUOTABLE|
"Royal Caribbean is providing support and assistance to the guest's loved ones during this difficult time."
—A statement from the cruise ship company following the death of an Erie woman who was killed in a shark attack in the Bahamas on Tuesday
|A cereus cactus transplanted from a larger cactus in Arizona to Kathy A.'s porch in Etters, where it is thriving. Send us your photos and art, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.|
|VOTER SIGNUPS: Pennsylvania will now offer voter registration forms at libraries, state park offices, state-run veterans homes, and other locations, all part of an effort to reach about 1.7 million people who are eligible to vote but not yet registered. Spotlight PA reports the forms will also be offered at corrections centers that serve incarcerated people near the end of their prison term and CareerLink offices.|
MILITIA MEN: The Anti-Defamation League says a leaked list of Oath Keeper members includes hundreds of people who are believed to work in U.S. law enforcement, the AP reports. WITF reported last year on Pennsylvania law enforcement officers with ties to the far-right extremist group, the leaders of which have been charged with playing a key role in fomenting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
ROAD WARS: An additional $175 million has been freed up for Pennsylvania road and bridge repairs under a budget deal that saw Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the GOP-led legislature agree to reduce the share of the funding that has traditionally gone to support state police operations. (The agency remains fully funded.) But Wolf wants a long-term fix, and TribLIVE reports a gas tax fight is looming.
OPEN SEATS: Four Philadelphia City Council members have now resigned to run for mayor in 2023, and more may follow suit. Council Majority Leader Cherelle Parker on Wednesday joined former colleagues Derek Green, Maria Quiñones Sánchez, and Allan Domb in the exodus, Billy Penn reports. All 17 council seats are up for election next year. NBC10 lays out the options for filling them in the interim.
PITT TAB: The University of Pittsburgh spent $750,000 on lobbying during the period that coincided with a GOP-led effort to cut its annual state budget appropriation over fetal tissue research earlier this year. WESA reports the total is nine times what the university normally spends on lobbying in a quarter. The funds were ultimately allocated, along with a boost from Gov. Wolf's share of relief funding.
9/11 EVENTS: First Lady Jill Biden will speak at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County on Sunday for the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. President Joe Biden will mark the occasion at the Pentagon.
WATER WAIT: Around 100 residents of East Bangor in Northampton County spent most of the summer living under a boil-water advisory. The Morning Call (paywall) reports the fix could arrive next month.
DUNKIN' DON'TS: A Dunkin' Donuts franchisee has been fined $24,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor for violating child labor laws at stores in Hershey, Hummelstown, and Palmyra, UPI reports.
LOW-LIGHT: A laser light show replaced fireworks at this year's Kipona Festival in Harrisburg and flopped. The company says weather and aviation rules played a role. The city is weighing its options, per PennLive.
BIRDHOUSE: The hottest bird feeder in Luzerne County belongs to Redditor u/photo_photographer, who posted pictures of the patrons.
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Yesterday's answer: Molecule
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