Pew Study Compares State Broadband Programs

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As part of its State Broadband Policy Explorer, the Pew Charitable Trust last week published part one of a series that reviews broadband deployment policies across all 50 states.   

State broadband programs do not follow a prescribed protocol for managing and executing broadband programs and policies. As outlined in its review, Pew notes that state programs “reflect policymakers’ recognition of the critical importance of reliable, high-speed internet access in the modern economy and the need for effective coordination among agencies to bridge the digital divide.” 

Nearly three quarters of states have a dedicated broadband office to maintain authority over expanding broadband. These agencies or departments depend on relationships with policymakers and other stakeholders, while relying on the agency’s experience with program priorities, such as geographic information systems or grant management. Iowa and Alabama are two such states who have dedicated broadband agencies. 

Others have broadband task forces or councils dedicated to finding opportunities to expand broadband deployment and adoption and to make policy recommendations to the governor and legislature. According to Pew, “The composition of task forces and councils varies depending on their goals and mandates, and may include representatives of state agencies, internet service providers, local officials, nonprofit organizations, and state legislators.” 

Kansas, for example, has a 17-member broadband expansion task force that includes state legislators, local government advocacy organizations, internet service providers, and ex-officio representatives of state agencies. Established in 2018, the task force makes recommendations on broadband deployment, identifies funding sources, and oversees its statewide high-speed internet accessibility map. 

Pew’s report also identified two states, Georgia and Nevada, which go beyond the standard functions identified in broadband agencies, departments or task forces and councils. “Georgia has a Broadband Ready Site designation to certify industrial and commercial sites offering service at speeds that can support business, education, health care, and government applications.” 

Nevada’s broadband policy department works with the Department of Transportation to put policies in place requiring that conduit be installed when the state builds or upgrades transportation infrastructure. It also works with the Telecommunications Advisory Council to evaluate applications from telecommunications providers to access the conduit in exchange for expanding fiber infrastructure in other areas of the state. 

Regardless of structure, Pew highlighted that state programs similarly engage with stakeholders, collect and analyze data, plan local and statewide buildouts, and support deployment efforts through grants. They share the same goal of connecting more homes and businesses across the expanse of their individual states. 

For more information, see Pew’s Key Elements of State Broadband Programs fact sheet

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