A report from the Pew Charitable Trusts highlights practices for state programs aimed at expanding broadband access to un- and underserved areas.
Based on interviews with more than three hundred representatives of state broadband programs, Internet service providers, local governments, and broadband coalitions, the report, How States Are Expanding Broadband Access (HTML or PDF, 48 pages), identified five promising and mutually reinforcing practices: stakeholder outreach and engagement at both the state and local levels; a policy framework with well-defined goals that connects broadband to other policy priorities; planning and capacity building in support of broadband infrastructure projects; funding and operations through grant programs, with an emphasis on accountability and data collection; and program evaluation and evolution to ensure that lessons learned inform the next iteration of goals and activities. The study explores how nine states — California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — have adapted and implemented different combinations of those practices to close gaps in broadband access.
In addition to the five practices, the report identifies common characteristics that contribute to the success of state broadband programs: effective leadership from governors, legislators, and agency heads; dedicated broadband staff with expertise and clear responsibility for their portfolios; visibility and responsiveness on the part of directors and staff in the form of informational sessions and public meetings; and strong relationships with stakeholder groups.
"The promising practices highlighted in this report show that states are addressing this challenge in similar ways, despite differences in funding and program activities," the authors conclude. "While no silver bullet will ensure better broadband connectivity, officials at all levels of government can gain insights from these examples on how to bring this critical service to areas that remain unserved."