HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 1621
into law, announced prime sponsor Rep. Jim Marshall (R-Beaver/Butler), co-sponsor Rep. Robert Matzie (D-Beaver/Allegheny) and Sen. Patrick Browne (R-16th District). This increases access to 5G technology by deploying small wireless facilities, which could be as small as a backpack and attached to an existing utility pole.
“While I know we still have work to do, I am truly hopeful this legislation will improve connectivity across the Commonwealth,” said Marshall, Republican chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee. “I greatly appreciate the hard work of Sens. Browne, Phillips-Hill, and Kane - along with their staff - to help Chairman Matzie and I create a law that we all can be proud of.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a $20.4 billion investment by establishing the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. In December 2020, the FCC reported $368 million would be awarded to bidders to provide technology to nearly 185,000 Pennsylvanians. The bidding for the next auction is expected to begin in 2022.
“If the past year has shown us anything, it’s that access to fast, reliable broadband is a necessity in practically every aspect of life,” said Matzie, Democratic chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee. “The technology is out there, but we needed a seamless plan to harness it. Our legislation provides that plan by laying the groundwork for municipalities to obtain this technology while also protecting the workers who install it.
“With the governor signing our bill into law, we can now put that plan into action, bringing us one step closer to state-of-the-art connectivity for all Pennsylvanians – regardless of ZIP code,” he concluded.
Municipalities will have the option to deny a permit if it creates a hazard for motorists or pedestrians, or it violates provisions within the Americans with Disabilities Act. Local governments can also create guidelines for the small wireless facilities if it does not prohibit installation.
“This legislation provides for the uniform, efficient and predictable regulation of small wireless facilities to streamline and accelerate the deployment of the next generation of high-speed wireless broadband throughout Pennsylvania,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, who sponsored the companion legislation. “This final product is the result of significant work among wireless providers, our municipalities and groups representing workers, who do much of the deployment work, to come to this agreed-to legislation.
“I want to thank Reps. Marshall and Matzie for their leadership and for working with me on this important legislation that encourages wireless providers to deploy the most modern infrastructure throughout Pennsylvania while maintaining local government authority over their rights-of-way. I also want to thank my colleagues Sens. Lisa Boscola, Kristin Phillips-Hill and John Kane for all of their work to help usher this legislation through the Senate and to the governor.”
Representative Jim Marshall
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Nate Temple