CivSource has reported on the variety of initiatives state and local governments are working on to improve access to broadband nationwide. However, 90 million Americans still lack access to high-speed broadband. Connected Nation, a national organization focused on bringing broadband to Americans has released a new report highlighting best practices from state governments for broadband expansion as part of its effort to bridge the digital divide. The report was unveiled at the Telecommunications Industry Association’s 2013 Future of the Network conference in Washington, DC.
According to Connected Nation, Americans without broadband risk being deprived of basic needs such as education, employment, commerce, healthcare, and social interaction that increasingly occur through the Internet.
As broadband expansion got into full swing under the stimulus bill, the bulk of those efforts were concentrated on connecting anchor institutions – schools, hospitals, libraries, and law enforcement. However, while connecting anchor institutions helps, rural populations and other hard to reach demographics are still, largely going without. Municipalities in rural areas have tried building their own broadband networks, but have faced significant pushback from telecommunications companies who contend that these networks are unfair competition, even though they have no plans to build networks of their own.
Some Governors like Iowa’s Terry Branstad are going further with initiatives to connect every state resident. Governor Brandstad is working with Connected Nation through the local chapter- Connect Iowa – to bring broadband to all Iowans.
“Last month I announced our initiative to Connect Every Iowan, with the goal of becoming the most connected state in the Midwest. The Connected community program will help us achieve that goal by allowing towns large and small throughout our state to improve access, adoption, and use of broadband technology,” the Governor said.
Iowa will be working with Connected Nation on a plan to connect West Des Moines next. The West Des Moines Technology Action Plan unveiled at the event includes projects to expand digital literacy, build awareness for the benefits of broadband, and assist businesses with websites and social media. West Des Moines plans to establish a Grand Technology Gateway in the center of town to host a new Microsoft facility and other technology firms.
The program is a national model designed by Connected Nation, to establish a framework for broadband expansion planning at the community level. The program entails building a comprehensive action plan for developing a technology-ready community by reviewing the technology landscape, developing regional partnerships, establishing local teams, and conducting a thorough community assessment.