Pennsylvania opens grant applications for laptop giveaways

The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority has opened applications for a grant program that will funnel $20 million into free laptop computers for the public.
stacks of laptops
(Getty Images

The Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority on Thursday opened applications for a new grant program that will funnel $20 million into free laptop computers and digital skills training for people who live in areas with poor access to the internet.

The new program, born out of the pandemic-era American Rescue Plan, will fund distribution of laptops to public-facing institutions like libraries, workforce training organizations and nonprofit groups. According to a state announcement, the department will review applications in August and announce grant winners in November to begin distributing free devices next year.

Pennsylvania’s grant funding kickoff follows an announcement by the state broadband authority last April of $204 million to expand the state’s high-speed internet via 53 new construction projects.

The program requires grant recipients to offer digital skills training, a resource frequently cited by broadband advocates as a component of the digital divide as relevant as the nation’s fiber optic infrastructure itself. Laptop recipients are not required to attend skills training.


The digital divide is shrinking. A 2023 Pew Research Center survey found that 90% of adults in the U.S. have a smartphone and 80% subscribe to high-speed internet at home. Some credit rising access numbers to programs like the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which, until it expired last month, provided low-income households with devices and discounts on their internet bills.

Brandon Carson, the executive director of Pennsylvania’s broadband development authority, said in a press release that he’s trying to “make ‘internet for all’ a reality across the Commonwealth.”

“The Digital Connectivity Technology Program will provide libraries and other community institutions with the technology required to give Pennsylvanians the internet access they need to have better health, education, and economic outcomes,” Carson said in the release.

Pennsylvania is set to receive a total of $1.16 billion through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration approved the second volume of Pennsylvania’s BEAD proposal last month.

Pennsylvania is just one of 50 states currently expanding its broadband network and digital skills programs. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday announced approval of 24 new internet infrastructure projects, totaling $70.9 million.

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