State officials ask for feedback on broadband plan | Five for the weekend

Pennsylvania officials hope to submit the plan by Aug. 12 and expect to begin receiving funds in 2024

By: - July 29, 2023 6:30 am

A man fills out an online application during a job fair hosted by the city of Chicago in July 2012. The fair offered computer access to people who do not have internet access (Scott Olson/Getty Images).

Happy weekend, all. 

The Pennsylvania Broadband Authority is asking Pennsylvanians for their input on a five-year plan to expand broadband internet access across the commonwealth.

The plan outlines how the commonwealth will disperse more than a billion dollars in federal funding for broadband infrastructure and development projects.

More on that here: How Pennsylvania plans to deploy $1.16B allocated for broadband expansion

While Pennsylvanians can submit their feedback online, the authority is also hosting five public comment events between July 31 and Sept. 5 to gather feedback on the plan.

Reporter Marley Parish has the full story on how Pennsylvanians can weigh in: How to offer feedback on a plan to expand broadband access in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania officials hope to submit the plan by Aug. 12 and expect to begin receiving funds in 2024.

As always, the top five stories from this week are below.

The top organic commodities in Pennsylvania as of 2021 were livestock and poultry, generating $730 million in sales, and mushrooms, generating $95.4 million. (Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg)

1. Looking to harness ‘great potential,’ Pa. banks on the future of organic agriculture

As demand for organically grown food continues to increase across the country, Pennsylvania is bolstering its efforts to capitalize on the trend and position itself as a leader in the organic sector through substantial investments at the state level.

Building on the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, which allocates $1.6 million annually to support organic farming, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro proposed another $1 million investment in organics in the 2023-24 fiscal year budget, calling organics the “future of Pennsylvania agriculture.”

Pennsylvania Capitol Building. May 24, 2022. Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).
Pennsylvania Capitol Building on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

2. How Pennsylvania’s budget impasse has affected tuition rates at state-related universities

Pennsylvania lawmakers likely won’t solve the budget impasse before schools return this fall, forcing some of the four state-related universities to approve tuition increases for the upcoming year.

A two-thirds majority vote is required to approve funding for Lincoln University, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh.

Democratic lawmakers have argued that additional funding would help lower tuition rates and alleviate student debt. Republicans have opposed the increase and pushed for tuition freezes and transparency reforms, like making state-related schools subject to the Right-to-Know Law.

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., chairs a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry subcommittee hearing to examine the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition assistance programs. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

3. Fetterman introduces bill to allow striking workers to collect SNAP benefits

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., is introducing legislation today that would allow workers on strike to collect SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps.

The Food Secure Strikers Act comes amid a summer wave of union organizing activity — from locomotive plant workers in Erie to Hollywood writers and actors. A strike by newsroom workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Fetterman’s hometown newspaper, has been going on for nearly a year.

“Every union worker who is walking the picket line this summer needs to know that we have their back here in Washington,” Fetterman said in a statement. “The union way of life is sacred. It’s what built Pennsylvania and this nation. It is critical for us to protect workers’ right to organize, and that includes making sure they and their families have the resources to support themselves while on strike.”

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman talked about his support of reproductive rights to his admiration for Pennsylvania’s senior Sen. Bob Casey, during an interview from his home on Friday, July 21, 2023 in Braddock, Pa. (Jared Wickerham/For Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

4. John Fetterman back in the U.S. Senate and looking ahead to 2024

By now, most people are aware that U.S. Sen. John Fetterman has been through a difficult time over the past year, to put it mildly.

Pennsylvania’s freshman senator has staged a remarkable comeback and has plenty of things he wants to talk about besides his health issues, but to recap: He suffered a stroke last May, but won a bruising Senate campaign in the 2022 midterm election. He spent six weeks at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center being treated for clinical depression, and has been the subject of numerous TV and magazine profiles focused on how he handled the news of his depression and hospitalization: with bravery and transparency.

Across Philadelphia’s 217 public schools, there are just four certified librarians, making the ratio four to 113,000 students, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan told the Capital-Star. (Ella Lathan/for Capital-Star)

5. Universities, nonprofits step up to aid depleted Philadelphia public school libraries

Philadelphia is known for its prominent universities like the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Temple, St. Joseph’s, and others.

Their presence boasts a rich educational and medical landscape. While the abundance of such institutions suggests an ample availability of libraries, this is seldom the case for Philadelphia public school students.

And according to one union leader, the numbers are stark.

And that’s the week. We’ll see you back here next week.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.