Stateline.org recently examined state and federal initiatives to bring broadband service to America’s rural areas:
Maine gives out about $1 million about every 10 months to help its residents get high-speed Internet connections. In July, it approved nine projects costing the state almost $800,000 to get 5,000 families hooked up.
States across the country have pursued similar efforts toward creating statewide broadband policies and better access for their residents. But their scale pales in comparison to the $7.2 billion in stimulus money the federal government has committed over the next two years to improve high-speed Internet connections around the country.
Every state is supposed to get a share, and every governor will get a chance to weigh in on how the funds are spent. In this wash of new money, state officials are scurrying to identify the states’ greatest needs, coaching providers applying for stimulus money and developing overarching plans for how to roll out expanded service.
Most of the stimulus money will go toward building out high-speed connections to people in hard-to-reach places. Larry Landis, an Indiana Utility Commissioner active in national broadband efforts, says states have an “obligation to address those who are currently unserved” by broadband.
“What we need is a broadband consensus which nurtures state initiatives to build out to serve the least, the last and the lost,” he said.
The “least,” he says, are the working poor who haven’t been able to afford broadband. The “last” are those “currently on the fringes of the infrastructure to deliver on the promise of broadband.” The “lost” are consumers who could buy broadband but don’t.
Currently, 63 percent of adults have broadband at home, compared to just 7 percent who use dial-up connections, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which, like Stateline.org, is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Half of the U.S. adults who don’t have broadband at home say they don’t see the need for it, the study said. One in five respondents said they didn’t get a high-speed connection because it was too costly.
Also, take a look at how a Noblesville company is working to help Alabama with its broadband efforts in the May/June BizVoice.