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

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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.

Wooden judge hammer on laptop computer white keyboard
Wooden judge hammer on laptop computer white keyboard

Legal Barriers to Expanding High-Speed, Reliable Internet

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The pandemic accelerated the momentum for getting every American access to affordable, reliable broadband. It also elevated the role that states and localities should play in bridging the digital divide—the gap between those with access to high-speed internet and those without it—including by building partnerships with internet service providers (ISPs) to get communities online.

The sun sets behind a rural farm in Adamstown, MD on September 28, 2018.
The sun sets behind a rural farm in Adamstown, MD on September 28, 2018.

A Primer on Rural Broadband Deployment

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More than 18 million Americans lack access to high-speed internet, many of them in rural areas where homes and businesses are spread far apart.


Spotlight on Mental Health

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Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

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How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

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