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Two Reports Highlight Opportunities for State Broadband Policies

June 04, 2008

Although the U.S. broadband infrastructure has expanded rapidly over the past decade, 45 percent of rural areas still lack access to high-speed Internet services. A recent issue brief from the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices provides a number of strategies that have proven effective in expanding broadband access, particularly in underserved rural areas.
The brief highlights a number of state efforts that have been successful in expanding and improving service in recent years. These include the California Broadband Initiative, ConnectKentucky, Maine's ConnectME Authority and the New York State Council for Universal Broadband. Together, these profiles offer an overview of how states are approaching the digital divide.
NGA also presents a number of specific strategies that can be implemented in states with high-speed Internet gaps to create a comprehensive broadband access initiative. For example, the report provides a guide to 14 state tax credit programs that have been used to increase demand for broadband services or to encourage the development of new broadband infrastructure.
Other strategies discussed in the brief include:

  • Establishing a public-private task force to identify effective policies;
  • Using public funds to leverage private investment in broadband infrastructure;
  • Engaging communities to increase demand for broadband services in underserved areas; and,
  • Mapping broadband availability at different levels of speed.

Read "State Efforts to Expand Broadband Access" at: http://www.nga.org/Files/pdf/0805BROADBANDACCESS.PDF
Mapping Broadband Accessibility
Despite many attempts in the U.S., mapping broadband access with any degree of accuracy has proven difficult. Studies typically rely on information from Internet service providers to determine which consumers have access to high-speed services, and this has proven problematic (see the Feb. 8, 2008 issue of the Digest). A new report provides a different perspective on measuring high-speed access while shedding some light on Internet usage in the U.S.
Akamai Technologies, which offers support services for websites, has begun publishing a quarterly report on Web usage from a server-side perspective. This approach helps to avoid many of the problems encountered by studies based on information from Internet providers. In the first of these reports, the company finds that the U.S. ranks eighth globally in household penetration. That rank roughly matches recent rankings compiled by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.
Akamai also finds that 20 percent of all connections in the U.S. came from high-speed consumers, with connections faster than or equal to 5 Mbps. The report breaks down this data by state. Delaware, Rhode Island and New York had the highest percentages of high-speed connections, with 60 percent, 42 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Other top states included Nevada, Oklahoma, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maryland and the District of Columbia. This ranking stands in contrast to the State Broadband Index prepared by TechNet in 2003, which put larger states such as Florida, Michigan and Texas in the top ranks for broadband deployment and demand.
Read the report at: http://www.akamai.com/stateoftheinternet/

California, Kentucky, Maine, New York