The Pew Charitable Trusts’ state broadband policy explorer lets you learn how states are expanding access to broadband through laws. Categories in the tool include: broadband programs, competition and regulation, definitions, funding and financing, and infrastructure access. As you choose categories, a 50-state map illustrates which states have adopted such laws, which includes state statutes related to broadband as of Jan. 1, 2019.
As high-speed, reliable internet access becomes increasingly important in modern life, state leaders are seeking ways to fund projects to expand this vital service. Although the mechanisms that states use are fairly consistent—grants and loans, among others—they have different approaches for distributing funds and encouraging investment. This brief explores the ways in which states support broadband deployment projects and what they aim to accomplish.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is the most significant rural infrastructure initiative of our time. At over $20 billion, there is sufficient funding in the RDOF to support the most advanced fiber optic services to every rural home in the nation. The program has the potential to become the Rural Electrification Act of our generation, especially if it fosters the same spirit of local initiative, local ownership and local control.
A coalition of major trade groups has turned attention to the Department of Energy in order to challenge a Federal Communications Commission proposal they say would threaten grid reliability and heighten outage risks. The groups claim that by opening up a wireless communications band heavily used by utilities to unlicensed use, the DoE needs to step in to help ensure that grid operations are protected. The FCC launched a proceeding in Oct to consider allowing unlicensed operations on the 6 GHz spectrum band.
Gov Ralph Northam (D-VA) grew up on electric cooperative lines and lauds their record of “reliable and efficient energy service.” But at a historic church surrounded by woods in the state’s rural center, he recognized co-ops’ latest role: broadband provider to the underserved. Co-ops “absolutely” have a role in his administration’s goal of connecting every VA resident to highspeed internet access, he said.
Some experts are arguing that digital services by their very nature represent interstate commerce and therefore are best dealt with by Congress. In order to avoid the fragmentation of state-centered markets, it is necessary to have uniform standards, not state or local statutes. Given the current composition of the US Supreme Court, a majority of justices could endorse that interpretation of the interstate commerce clause and sharply limits the ability of state and local governments to impose rules on digital services or technology innovation.
While the Federal Communications Commission reports that 90 percent of Iowans have access to advanced broadband, others, including Microsoft, argue that measurement of access is grossly overstated, as only about 30 percent of Iowans actually use broadband. While a state utilities board rules on natural gas and electricity rate increases proposed by investor-owned companies and local officials are accountable for a customer’s water and wastewater bill, Iowa broadband exists largely in the private sector.
At the beginning of 2019, our Community Broadband Networks team visited North Carolina as part of the Let’s Connect speaking tour. While preparing for the trip and after returning to Minnesota, we researched and mapped Internet access and broadband funding in the state.
Next Century Cities teamed up with the Internet Society and Neighborly to create the Becoming Broadband Ready toolkit. This comprehensive toolkit provides local leaders with a roadmap to encourage broadband investment in their community. While every community will choose to tackle connectivity a little differently – a small island community and a large urban center will likely have unique considerations and approaches – there are many common threads that run through successful broadband projects.
A few years ago, Tuttle (OK) suddenly found itself without cable or internet service after a local broadband provider went bankrupt, leaving behind unpaid bills to the power company. Like the majority of cities in the US, Tuttle residents accessed broadband through private companies rather than through a city-run system. With the town of a few thousand growing quickly and attracting professionals from nearby Oklahoma City who were used to high-speed internet, Tuttle city officials began meeting with new private telecommunications companies to fill the gap.