broadband

Homework gap highlights digital divide as Congress considers more money for broadband

School buses across the country are helping school children as they finish a decidedly unconventional academic year but they aren’t transporting students, they are acting as mobile Wi-Fi units bringing connectivity capability to students who lack broadband service. As the coronavirus pandemic closed schools across the country, many in rural or low-income areas without internet access were left scrambling as classes went online. Equipping buses with Wi-Fi to help accommodate the online learning is a short-term solution to a much bigger problem.

New reports bolster broadband data, provide tactics for successful state broadband expansion

Two new reports, one from the National Association of Counties (NACO) and the other from the Pew Charitable Trusts, provide new data on the gaps in access to broadband and some tactics for how states can effectively develop their broadband expansion projects.

FCC moves ahead with $20 billion rural broadband funding plan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced last week that it has approved the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund which will provide $20.4 billion over two phases to help expand broadband networks throughout rural communities. Phase one will provide $16 billion for use in communities that are currently unserved by broadband services with minimal download speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and 3 Mbps upload speeds.

States making headway in closing the rural-urban divide in access to high-speed broadband service

Access to reliable and fast internet service is a foundational element for the modern economy. Since the advent of broadband service its delivery has been highly divided between urban and rural areas. Many states are continuing to address this divide and took action in 2019. Several states repealed laws prohibiting local electric companies and co-ops from providing broadband services, other states initiated official planning efforts to expand internet services, and many approved and dispersed funding to develop broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

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

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.

FCC announces new tech initiatives

The Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai outlined two new initiatives aimed at ensuring U.S. leadership in 5G and continuing efforts to close the digital divide. Pai announced his intent to create the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which he indicated would inject $20.4 billion into high-speed broadband networks in rural American over the next decade.

Innovation, broadband, higher education initiatives get state support

Innovation initiatives are seeing increased funding in some states as legislatures across the country begin to finalize budget bills and other legislation. SSTI continues to monitor these developments and this week we cover budget bills in Idaho that saw small increases to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, as well as increases in the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and STEM Action Center, and new funding for a computer science initiative. South Dakota will see an increase in funding for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and West Virginia passed bills creating an SBIR/STTR matching grant program, support for community and technical college tuition assistance, expansion of broadband service, and other innovation-related initiatives in its budget that passed earlier in March.

Rural broadband emerging as early theme for 2019

Action toward improving the availability and speed of broadband in rural areas is emerging as an early theme in 2019, continuing activity from 2018. Oregon, Washington and the USDA all announced new initiatives last month. In mid-December, the USDA announced the availability of $600 million in grants and loans to support improvement of broadband accessibility across rural America. Funding is split into three equal pools. Up to $200 million may be awarded as grants (deadline for proposals is April 29); $200 million may be awarded as low-interest loans (applications due June 28); and $200 million may be distributed in a mix of grants and loans (proposals are due May 29).  Projects funded through this initiative must serve communities with fewer than 20,000 people with no broadband service or where service is slower than 10 megabits per second (mbps) download and 1 mbps upload.

Federal agencies announce efforts to spur investment in rural broadband

Investments in rural broadband deployment can create significant returns on investments for state economies. A recent study from Purdue University's Center for Regional Development contends that Indiana could generate a $12 billion economic impact over 20 years with strategic broadband investments in rural areas across the state. Purdue researchers estimate that for every dollar invested in broadband by the state, there would a ROI of nearly $4 to the economy. The Federal Communication Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have recently announced efforts or proposed rules to create incentives for private investments, deploy new technologies, and develop other resources for rural communities across the country with the intent of spurring economic growth.

More states target broadband to drive rural economic growth

In February, SSTI highlighted several state-led efforts to address the rural broadband gap, which affects more than 30 percent of rural America who currently lack access to adequate broadband service. The states’ efforts should help revitalize rural communities by aiding small business formation and manufacturers’ expansion, and improve educational achievement/workforce training for local citizens. As some state legislative sessions wrap up, several more governors and state lawmakers have created new initiatives to address this significant issue. Alabama, Colorado and Washington provide the most recent examples of new commitments, including some reversing bans on public broadband provision when the private market fails to deliver.

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