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
Last Updated April 7, 2021
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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.

Broadband construction
Broadband construction
Article

Illinois, Benton Institute Work to Close Digital Divide

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Article

Expanding broadband access is a complex task, and often state officials benefit from the counsel of experts and community leaders in order to effectively implement it.

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Working from home
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Virginia Aims for Universal Broadband Access by 2028

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Virginia Aims for Universal Broadband Access by 2028

Though expanding access to high-speed internet is often seen as a federal or local issue, research has indicated that progress toward closing the broadband gap is being made on the state level as well.

OUR WORK

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Agenda for America

Resources for federal, state, and local decision-makers

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Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for emerging challenges, it makes government more effective and better able to serve the public interest.

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States of Innovation

Data-driven state policy innovations across America

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Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for difficult challenges. When states serve their traditional role as laboratories of innovation, they increase the American people’s confidence that the government they choose—no matter the size—can be effective, responsive, and in the public interest.

State Broadband Policy Explorer
State Broadband Policy Explorer
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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.