Report Outlines Broadband Fixes for State, Local Governments

How should states and local areas use federal dollars to connect the digital have-nots? A recent report aims to help governments that are looking for different options to address Internet access gaps in their communities.

In addition to broadband access, the report, produced by the NewDEAL Forum’s Broadband Task Force, examines a number of Internet-related subjects like coverage mapping, affordability, telehealth and digital skills.

The overall goal is to give states and local areas a plethora of ideas that they might draw from as they develop new programs funded by recent federal legislation.

Loranne Ausley, a Florida senator and co-chair of the aforementioned task force, said the report should be seen as closing the digital divide involving many different factors depending on local contexts.

Local areas, particularly when they’re rural, don’t always have the resources to identify a path forward when it comes to connectivity and digital inclusion. The report showcases the importance of having a state office that can support smaller community efforts with technical assistance, and underlines how critical it is to understand the different technologies that can help get households connected.

As challenging as it is for rural communities to tackle the issue of high-speed Internet access, that doesn’t mean cities don’t have major hurdles to clear. Both rural and urban areas have “serious inequity” in regards to broadband.

San Jose has had to get creative in its attempts to solve the affordability issue in some of its neighborhoods. In a novel approach outlined by the report, San Jose has formed a partnership with company to pay the Internet bills of low-income families by mining cryptocurrency and converting that to gift cards.

In Colorado, where a bill requires broadband grant applicants “to provide more granular mapping data to demonstrate the community needs”; Oakland, Calif. has managed to bring free Wi-Fi to multiple low-income apartment buildings; and Brownsville, Texas, has kicked off a plan to build middle-mile fiber throughout the city by bringing together stakeholders, taking advantage of federal funds and engaging in broadband mapping.

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