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What's next for Pa.'s $1.2B high-speed internet push

Plus, Canadian wildfire smoke returns this week.

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Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

Monday, July 17, 2023

Broadband billion, budget history, city planning, student debt, capital case, ghost guns, and Warren jail escapee caught after a week on the run.


Pennsylvania is figuring out how it will spend almost $1.2 billion in federal funding for high-speed internet. 

The government’s effort to improve broadband availability has been hindered by a lack of funding due to the extent of the issue. Long-awaited federal grant dollars will help speed up the process to provide fast, reliable internet connections to thousands of residents.

As the commonwealth prepares to receive this historic infrastructure investment, Spotlight PA breaks down three things you should know about how the money will be distributed and who could benefit.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: What’s next as Pa. prepares to spend $1.2B on broadband

THE CONTEXT: From Spotlight PA’s reporting:

Despite recent improvements, the federal map used to allocate funding to states has some gaps. Before the money was divided up, state and local governments were able to submit challenges if they found that the map overlooked areas that lacked broadband. Pennsylvania’s broadband authority submitted around 50,000 challenges, more than half of which were upheld by the federal government.

Local officials complained about tight deadlines and how unfair it was to expect residents without broadband access to submit their feedback online. Residents had “zero awareness” and the map was not user-friendly for the average person, said Clearfield County Commissioner Dave Glass.

Before Pennsylvania hands out grants, local governments, community groups, and internet service providers will have another chance to tell the state which locations need the funding. Sorting through this will require “a boatload of sweat and elbow grease,” said Evan Feinman, the federal official overseeing the broadband grant program.


"They really didn't have any warning and they were caught up in it."

Nick Primola of Yardley on severe flash flooding that left five people dead and several missing in Bucks County as of Sunday afternoon
Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania: The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now to Spotlight PA.
» Shortchanged Pa. schools plug away amid funding gridlock, via AP

» Pa. Sec. of State interviewed by Trump investigators, via CNN

» Shapiro pens op-ed on I-95 fix, lessons, via WaPo (paywall)

» How Shapiro turned I-95 collapse into a win, via FiveThirtyEight

» Pa. lawmakers cut back violence prevention funding, via Inky (paywall)

» Rep. Cutler 2020 protester suspected of J6 role, via LNP (paywall)

» DA won’t seek reelection after break with GOP, via Public Opinion

» Trump loses bid to toss Delco defamation suit, via Inky (paywall)

A rhododendron blooming along Blacklick Creek on the Ghost Town Trail between Indiana and Cambria Counties, via Jane M. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A rhododendron bush blooms on the banks of a creek amid the trees rocks and water.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.BUDGET IMPASSE: Pennsylvania’s state spending plan is more than two weeks late, and lawmakers have not publicly said how they might move forward. Delays are not uncommon but the cause of this year’s is. Spotlight PA looks back at past budget impasses and how they affect the current one.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.LAND USE: Pennsylvania’s 67 counties must produce comprehensive plans every decade to lay out how they plan to use land while balancing economic and environmental concerns. How are these decisions made? Spotlight PA has an in-depth look into how local government authorities determine what is appropriate land use

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.LOAN FORGIVENESS: The Biden administration announced Friday it will forgive more than $39 billion in federal student loans two weeks after the Supreme Court struck down its broader relief plan. The left-leaning Protect Borrowers Action group is organizing to target Republicans in 13 U.S. House districts, including one in Pennsylvania, who opposed the original plan.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.TREE OF LIFE: As the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting trial enters its final phase this week, jurors will decide Tree of Life shooter Robert Bowers’ sentence: life in prison or death. The Associated Press analyzes why the Department of Justice authorized the death penalty for Bowers’ case but not for a similar massacre in Texas.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.GHOST GUNS: Philadelphia is cracking down on ghost gun suppliers with a lawsuit, WHYY reports. Ghost guns are untraceable and can be obtained without a background check. The lawsuit aims to address the gun violence impacting Philly’s neighborhoods, especially Black and Brown ones.
Investigative journalism that gets results: Spotlight PA's vital work depends on you. Donate now.

MANHUNT: A manhunt ended Saturday after State Police captured an escaped Pennsylvania inmate who fled the Warren County Jail on July 6. 

BIDEN VISIT: President Joe Biden is returning to Philadelphia to discuss his “Bidenomics” agenda, per Inquirer reporter Julia Terruso. This marks his sixth trip to Philly. 

WILKINSBURG MERGER: A petition from residents isn’t enough to initiate a merger between Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg, Commonwealth Court recently found. Residents from both municipalities must be given the opportunity to vote on the question. 

AIR QUALITY: Brace for the return of smoke from Canadian wildfires this week. The National Weather Service Pittsburgh tweeted that it’s too soon to say whether it will be as bad as it was in late June. Alerts have been issued for Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. 

PICTURE PERFECT: Conrad Benner, the person behind the popular Philly-based photo blog Streets Dept, found himself on the other side of a camera lens in a story for the New York Times. Benner tweeted his excitement about being featured in the publication.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Friday's answer: Diametrically 

Congrats to our weekly winner: Ben P.

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Barbara F., Jon W., Craig E., Don H., Susan N.-Z., Kim C., Vicki U., Susan D., William Z., Daniel S., Judith D., Stanley J., Tom M., Joel S., and David W.


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