Pew Report: States Essential to Broadband Expansion

  • Broadband Adoption
  • Broadband Penetration
WASHINGTON - A growing number of states are looking to broadband to promote economic growth and deliver education, health care, public safety and other critical services, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States.

"States increasingly are viewing broadband as a way to gain a competitive advantage in a tough global economy," says Susan Urahn, managing director, Pew Center on the States. "They face three key challenges: expanding availability of broadband, encouraging people to use it and ensuring high-quality service. Just about every policy area that states manage could be affected by expanding this technology. States' efforts will play a pivotal role in whether the new national broadband plan succeeds."

California, Maine, North Carolina and Pennsylvania have been leaders in broadband mapping and adoption strategies, but the majority of states are trying to catch up.

Only 65 percent of Americans have broadband at home, with the remainder — about 100 million Americans — saying they cannot afford it, do not know how to use it or believe it is irrelevant to their lives. Issues of speed and reliability also exist. More than half the states still have localities where less than 50 percent of households can take advantage of standard Internet applications, such as audio and video.


State and local governments are using community colleges and libraries as local computing centers, giving incentives to private providers or building their own public broadband networks. The Federal Communications Commission is encouraging states to help encourage broadband adoption and use by, for instance, making it easier for professionals, such as doctors and teachers, to work across state lines and revamping tax codes so online workers are not paying primary taxes in more than one state. The FCC also recommends that governments build more robust online services that would enable citizens to register to vote, learn about public spending or sign up for safety net programs without repeated trips to various offices.

Pew's report found that, by some measures, many states lack staff and resources to develop and implement new broadband policies, negotiate effectively with private-sector providers or resolve thorny infrastructure issues, such as coordinating access across many different jurisdictions for fiber cable or utility pole attachments.

An estimated 15 states have agencies or authorities that focus on broadband expansion, according to the report. Before federal stimulus funds were awarded to help all states map broadband availability and speed within their borders, only about a dozen states had created such tools, and very few had drafted detailed plans for expanding access or launched efforts to explore broadband and its applications.

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