Fresh data from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows U.S. states are ramping efforts to expand high-speed internet, with more organizing their initiatives through dedicated broadband agencies and task forces.
By Pew’s count, 47 states have an agency involved in broadband projects, while 33 have a designated, often multi-agency task force and 26 have a centralized office for such projects. Efforts to fund broadband are also gaining steam, with 40 states now providing some sort of funding mechanism for broadband. Additionally, the data shows 43 states have undertaken efforts to map broadband coverage, and 35 have developed a broadband plan defining internet objectives and the path to achieve them.
Anna Read, senior officer for Pew’s Broadband Access Initiative, told Fierce it has been tracking the aforementioned data points for three years and its latest report reflects an “increase in the number of states that do have some type of formalized broadband program or initiative within state government.” She also noted “that more states have established funds, that they are funding them and that we have seen increases in the funding to a number of these grant programs over the period of time we’ve been looking at this.”
Read said that most states determine what areas are eligible for funding using the Federal Communications Commission’s benchmark, which defines adequate broadband as service offering speeds of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps upstream. However, she added many states are prioritizing faster speeds when weighing grant proposals.
“Minnesota, for example, has a scalable to 100/100 standard to prioritize those projects that are scalable to that 100/100 standard. So in the goals, and often in what states are prioritizing in their funding that higher speed standard is used,” she explained.
States which do not have broadband funds include Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas and Utah.
Mississippi stood out as the only state without a formal broadband agency, office, task force or fund. However, Read said the state has been addressing the broadband issue in other ways, allowing electric cooperatives to provide retail broadband service and devoting a portion of the Covid relief funds it received from the federal government to broadband deployment.
On methodology, Read said the data was based on information about broadband offices, programs and funding Pew collected and sent to state officials for verification. Pew indicated its data was current as of May 31, 2021.