Key Lessons for Policymakers and the Public About Expanding Broadband Access

A collection of expert interviews on deployment, speed, infrastructure, and the accelerating trend toward life online

Key Lessons for Policymakers and the Public About Expanding Broadband Access
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Nationwide, at least 18 million—and perhaps more than 42 million—Americans lack access to broadband internet service, and millions more cannot afford a high-speed connection even if one is available. The significance of this access gap was thrust into the spotlight in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of people to transition to working, learning, and performing other daily activities from home. This rapid shift led educators, employers, parents, and community leaders to echo what many policymakers and their partners have argued for the past decade: that reliable high-speed internet is essential for contemporary American life and that more action is needed to bridge the digital divide.

However, the work of expanding broadband availability—such as evaluating technology options and network models and navigating local permitting processes—can be confusing and resource-intensive. Research from The Pew Charitable Trusts has shown that states have greater success in achieving their broadband goals when they establish dedicated initiatives that provide planning and capacity-building support to educate stakeholders and empower them to devise and pursue a course of action.   

To help support states’ efforts and inform policymakers and the public, Pew’s broadband research initiative conducted a series of interviews with academics, community leaders, philanthropists, policy analysts, and other experts. The conversations offer important insights and perspectives on a range of issues related to expansion of broadband access.

West Virginia
West Virginia
Article

West Virginia's Approach to Closing the Digital Divide

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Article

Broadband expansion is unusual in these politically polarized times: a public policy issue that enjoys bipartisan support.

Man working from home
Man working from home
Article

Local Leaders Are Expanding Broadband Access

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The COVID-19 pandemic has increased attention on the crucial role that high-speed internet access plays in American life. In a time of social distancing, people need broadband to work from home, participate in online classrooms, access health care services, apply for public assistance, and perform ordinary household activities such as ordering groceries or prescriptions.

Walking down hallway
Walking down hallway
Article

Broadband Access Affects Educational Attainment

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Article

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased attention on the crucial role that high-speed internet access plays in American life. In a time of social distancing, people need broadband to work from home, access health care services, apply for public assistance, order groceries or prescriptions—and connect with classrooms.

Girl with tablet
Girl with tablet
Article

How Much Broadband Speed Do Americans Need?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has increased attention on the crucial role that high-speed internet access plays in American life. In a time that demands social distancing, broadband connections allow people to work from home, connect with classrooms, access health care services, apply for public assistance, and perform ordinary household activities such as ordering groceries or prescriptions.

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State Broadband Policy Explorer

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State Broadband Policy Explorer

Pew’s broadband research initiative reviewed state statutes, executive orders, and other governing directives for “broadband” and related terms (e.g., “high-speed internet”). This tool also includes information on state broadband programs gathered from state websites. All information was provided to states for review and verification.