Pew Initiative to Study Broadband Access Hurdles

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The Pew Charitable Trusts has launched its new Broadband Research Initiative to understand why some 24 million Americans — most of those living in rural communities — still lack what is largely now considered a basic utility. “About 30 percent of rural Americans do not have access to broadband, compared to about 2 percent of urban Americans,” said Kathryn de Wit, manager of Pew’s Broadband Research Initiative. “So while there is that big gap, I don’t think that this is a policy issue that’s split very neatly along urban and rural lines,” she continued. “There’s no one-size-fits-all to broadband connectivity and solving that gap. Every community is different and has different characteristics and different needs. And subsequently, will require different solutions for closing those gaps.” The research aims to explore some of the solutions to closing the broadband gap, as well as how to get there. “The bulk of our research is really looking at how state governments are addressing these gaps in connectivity,” said de Wit, and admitted the team is still pretty early in the research. One of the areas Pew will explore closely is how states are funding and financing broadband programs, noting that many are looking to sources that might have gone overlooked in the past. Some of those sources could be in areas like community development block grants or even transportation funding. “Really, this is about broadband kind of moving out of the telecommunications silo, and tying it to other policy areas,” she added. “So, broadband is a cornerstone technology, if you’re talking about transportation, tele-health, precision agriculture, education.”

Pew Initiative to Study Broadband Access Hurdles Broadband Research Initiative (Pew Charitable Trusts)