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Pennsylvania powers up internet infrastructure

Pennsylvania is laying the groundwork to become an internet powerhouse. Gov. Tom Wolfe recently signed two bills designed to increase data center investments and 5G infrastructure deployments.

One bill amending the tax code provides sales and use tax exemptions on data center equipment, provided owners and operators meet certain payroll and investment criteria. The bill was designed to attract large-scale enterprise data center development to the commonwealth.

Data centers must pay at least $1 million in compensation annually to employees at the certified data center within four years. Also in those first four years, they must invest at least $75 million if they’re located within counties with populations under 250,000 and at least $100 million in counties with a population over 250,000.

Virginia, meanwhile, has offered a sales and use tax exemption for computer centers since 2017 and has created over 45,000 new jobs and leveraged $10 billion in private investment.

“We were failing to attract data center developers to Pennsylvania because our tax policy was driving development to other states,” said state Sen. John Yudichak, a co-sponsor of the legislation. “The implementation of new tax policies that leverage private investment and encourage private sector job growth demonstrates Pennsylvania is stepping up its economic game and competing for high-wage technology jobs.”

The governor also signed legislation making it easier for 5G infrastructure companies to install the small cell antennas the wireless technology needs to deliver high-speed internet that will power connected vehicles and other next-generation technology.

The legislation creates a statewide right-of-way guidelines for local governments, internet service providers and the companies building out 5G infrastructure with antennas typically attached to utility poles.

While it leaves approval power with local governments by letting them process application fees from infrastructure providers, it details how long a municipality has to reply to an application and what fees it can charge. It also limits the size of the equipment and requires companies first consider mounting their small cell antennas on existing utility poles like traffic lights or street signs before asking to build a new pole, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

The new law also speeds up the approval process. If a municipality fails to approve or deny a co-location application within 60 days or an application to install a new utility pole within 90 days, the application is automatically approved.

“This is going to ignite entrepreneurship and innovation in the country in a way we can’t predict right now,” said Brian Kennedy, the senior vice president of operations and government affairs with the Pittsburgh Technology Council. “If you don’t have a 5G network here, you’re not going to have any entrepreneurial activity” around the next-gen tech.

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