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Pew launches interactive tool that monitors every state’s broadband policies and regulations

August 22, 2019

Broadband access is one of the pillars of economic development, yet as many as 24 million Americans, including a disproportionate percentage in rural areas, still lack high-speed and reliable internet service, according to the Pew Charitable Trust. To promote more widespread broadband access and information about the policies of all 50 states, Pew has launched State Broadband Policy Explorer, an interactive web-based tool “that lets you learn how states are expanding access to broadband through laws.”

Pew spent more than a year studying broadband access, including the locations of gaps in coverage and the policies each state is pursuing to fill in the gaps. Searchable categories on the new State Broadband Policy Explorer include: broadband programs, competition and regulation, definitions, funding and financing, and infrastructure access.

Approximately 30 percent of Americans who live in rural areas don’t have broadband access, compared to about 2 percent in urban areas, Kathryn de Wit, manager of Pew’s Broadband Research Initiative, said in an interview with Government Technology.

“States differ in how they manage the development of broadband. Some states have a centralized office responsible for managing or coordinating broadband efforts,” according to Pew. “In others, multiple agencies have jurisdiction over broadband. States have written plans, created maps, or identified goals and funding mechanisms for their broadband work; some have almost all of these, while others have few or none.”

The importance of the expansion of broadband access is a hot topic, and many states have undertaken initiatives to expand needed infrastructure. For instance, Illinois recently announced a $420 million statewide initiative to expand and improve its broadband capabilities that is a key piece of its Rebuild Illinois capital plan; the North Carolina House passed long-delayed and debated legislation, the FIBER NC Act, that would eliminate restrictions on local government investment in broadband.

The FCC’s Eighth Broadband Progress Report, places the number of Americans without access at about 19 million, less than the Pew findings. The report concludes that “the FCC – and the nation – must continue to address obstacles impeding universal broadband deployment and availability.”

pew, broadband