State governments across the nation are looking to improve broadband service for their residents, using different approaches and with unique end goals in mind. However, a recent fact sheet published by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that there are three important components that the most successful states have implemented: a broadband office, planning and technical assistance for local and regional entities, and a competitive grant program.
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, centralized broadband offices within state government can specialize in broadband issues and help to plan and direct funding for broadband projects, be the point of contact for stakeholders and become a “neutral voice” on broadband to community and state leaders. Some states like Minnesota and Colorado have created offices that deal with broadband, while others like Tennessee have designated staff within another agency that focus on broadband.
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The Pew Charitable Trusts also suggests state agencies lead planning efforts, particularly because many local governments may not have the proper resources or expertise to do so. These efforts include both strategic planning — creating goals, working to establish endorsements from stakeholders, conducting surveys and connecting with internet service providers — and technical planning, which involves designing the network, applying for funding and business planning.
Finally, Pew suggested states looking to establish successful broadband coverage should create a competitive grant program that will “provide limited subsidies to internet service providers to extend service into rural and unserved areas.” These programs help to create an evaluation criteria for proposed projects, lessen costs in areas that would typically be expensive to cover and help determine what local needs are being met.
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