Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Researchers discuss which state policies can best help bridge the rural-urban broadband gap

Pandemic shutdowns have highlighted how important adequate and affordable broadband is for Americans, but at least one-fifth of rural Americans don't have access to it. Many state governments are trying to do more to connect rural areas to broadband, with varying success. "As part of our ongoing research on how broadband access affects economic development, we conducted a study that examined which of these state policies are actually working," Brian Whitacre and Roberto Gallardo write for The Conversation. Whitacre is an agricultural economics professor at Oklahoma State University and Gallardo is the director for the Purdue Center for Regional Development at Purdue University.

"Many state governments have adopted one or more of three approaches that can affect broadband availability: establishing broadband offices, increasing funding and restricting municipal networks," Whitacre and Gallardo write. After in-depth research, they found that "having a dedicated funding program turned out to have the greatest positive impact on getting more people in rural areas connected to broadband and fiber." Read more here, including interactive maps with state-level data.

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