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Pell CenterThe Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy published an article this month, State-Level Broadband Policy: A Compendium of Resources and Approaches which outlines why broadband policy matters for civic participation, education, health care delivery, economic growth, worker training, and public safety. Angela Seifer, adjunct fellow at the Pell Center, wrote the article to synthesize several examples of successful state-level policies and recommend various best-practices for implementing robust broadband programs.

Click here to read the full article. 

The report explains that, “while moving forward in the broadband arena requires dealing with a range of complex considerations, it also promises significant rewards for residents and stakeholders across the state. Creating an environment that is conducive to building capacity and innovation will benefit the state as a whole, and no state can afford to be left behind.” Its six recommendations are based on mapping Internet use, determining what infrastructure is available, identifying both broadband service providers and experts in the state, convening experts and providers to discuss needs, identifying which groups care most about the Internet, and keeping up-to-date on FirstNet developments.

The report points out that broadband policy has become “indispensable” and is “essential to the well-being” of all U.S. citizens because it has had measurable impacts on economic development, civic engagement, education, healthcare, and public safety. It argues that accessibility also sustains a state’s economic well-being and adds that among adults older than 25 years there is a six percent difference in employment probability between those who use the Internet and those who do not. Seifer also concludes that civic participation has largely moved online and that “long-term plans to increase civic engagement must have a strong online component” because nearly as many adults are engaging online (34%) as they are offline (39%).

Seifer illustrates the need for broadband infrastructure in public safety, education, and healthcare by pointing out the priority to first identify which groups are not subscribing to “Internet access, why they are not, and what would convince them to subscribe.” It uses as an example the Utah Non-Adopters survey that The Utah Broadband Outreach Center conducted to better understand non-adopters and what barriers there are to accessing the Internet. Another example that it uses to make these points is that the telecommunications company Ericsson “forecasts that the monthly bandwidth used by the average laptop will jump from 3,300 MB in 2013 to 15,000 MB by 2020,” in large part due to the growing need for education and telemedicine technologies.

Because broadband has quickly become a basic need, state and local-level involvement in expanding network capabilities can make a real difference in how residents get connected. Be sure to visit locate.utah.gov to experience an interactive map of commercial broadband and various key infrastructure data in your community.