The Role States Are Playing in Expanding Broadband Access

Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

New research offers a window into what states are doing to help get about 20 million Americans who now lack reliable, high-speed internet connected with the service.

State government efforts to help fund the expansion of broadband internet networks are relying on a mix of grants, loans and other programs that tend to focus on underserved areas and projects that complete “last mile” connections that link to homes and businesses.

That’s according to new research from The Pew Charitable Trusts that examines how states are supporting broadband projects. Pew has also released an interactive database that allows users to search, filter and sort state broadband policies across the U.S.

Pew has noted previously that about 21 million Americans lack access to reliable high-speed internet.

In a new brief, researchers with the nonprofit point out that some states, like Minnesota and North Carolina, have created specially designated funds to back broadband initiatives.

Ten states, meanwhile, have what are known as state universal service funds, supported by fees charged to telecommunications companies.

These pots of money originated in the era when the federal government and states were trying to ensure communities had access to telephone service. Subsequent changes to law in the 1990s allowed for the funds to go toward expanding internet connectivity.

In other cases states are turning to somewhat unique streams of revenue to pay for expanding broadband.

For example, the Pew brief notes that Indiana plans to use toll road revenues to fund a $100 million broadband program. And Illinois directs certain civil penalties that internet service providers pay into a “Digital Divide Elimination Fund.”

Devoting funding toward areas that lack access to high speed broadband, and to so-called last mile projects that connect homes and businesses, as opposed to infrastructure that functions as more of a mainline for networks, are two other state-level trends Pew highlights.

State broadband programs are happening along with federal and local initiatives.

The “farm bill” that President Trump signed last year, for instance, increased the annual authorization level for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service broadband programs from $25 million to $350 million through 2023.

And in recent months, the Federal Communications Commission has pushed ahead with establishing what it’s calling the “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund,” which would direct up to about $20 billion over a decade to expand broadband in poorly served rural areas.

Money for the fund, however, is slated to be shifted from an existing broadband program that is set to expire next year—the Connect America Fund. And some observers have characterized the project as more of a rebranding than a new initiative.

Meanwhile, there’s action at the local level in places like San Jose, California. 

The city is funneling fees wireless companies pay to install equipment on city utility poles into a “Digital Inclusion Fund,” which is expected to total about $24 million. The fund will help with expanding high-speed internet service for about 50,000 households, the city has said.

Not all state-level broadband programs have gone smoothly. A statewide project in Kentucky, known as KentuckyWired, has drawn scrutiny for going over budget and lagging behind schedule, and for how officials there have handled it.

Pew’s policy brief can be found here. And its interactive database of state broadband policies is here.

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

NEXT STORY: For Pedestrian and Biking Projects, Some Progress in Latest Highway Bill

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.