Broadband Strategy Councils
The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has earmarked an unprecedented amount of money to broadband and associated technology programs. This recognition of the role broadband currently plays and will play in all aspects of our lives, from energy management to healthcare, underscores why its imperative for states to think strategically about how to facilitate universal broadband access and adoption and to integrate broadband into numerous state goals.
Currently, approximately 20 million Americans do not have access to a single high-speed Internet provider, and even more are currently priced out of the market. In order to ensure that states remain competitive in the 21st century, state legislators should consider creating a Broadband Strategy Council that is focused on increasing access and adoption of affordable broadband, especially to unserved and underserved areas and populations. Additionally, the entity should be tasked with developing a strategy to leverage broadband technology across various sectors, such as government, healthcare, energy management, workforce development and education to create efficiencies, save money, increase transparency and provide better services and increased opportunities to its citizens.
Any legislation establishing a broadband strategy council should require the council to:
- Develop a statewide strategic approach to broadband deployment. Work with various state leaders, such as the heads of the transportation, commerce, work-force development, health care and energy agencies to ensure that broadband deployment is done efficiently and coordinated with other long-term state goals.
- Consist of diverse members representing various stakeholders, experts, government and agency leaders who are able to develop a "big picture" build-out and adoption strategy that provides increased access to affordable broadband and protects the public interest, especially to unserved and underserved areas and populations.
- Establish clear deployment and adoption goals and accountability metrics. Determine the type of infrastructure available to residents, set minimum connectivity speeds fast enough to support advanced applications and address barriers to adoption.
- Provide a forum for public/private collaboration that allows states to work with privately owned providers to expand services in underserved and unserved areas.
- Help spur demand pooling to create increased affordable access to broadband and encourage private corporations to act in the public interest. For example, state or local governments can act as anchor tenant as a means of attracting private telecommunications infrastructure investment.
- Meet federal requirements for matching grant and other funding opportunities. State broadband deployment councils should have the power to apply for federal grants that will assist in broadband build-out.
- Protect municipalities rights to undertake local broadband projects and the provision of services in connection with those projects and services; lease infrastructure that they own or control; aggregate customers or demand for broadband services; create public / private partnerships; or apply for and receive funds or technical assistance to undertake projects which increase broadband access to their businesses and residents. For example, broadband Internet deployment councils should include language to protect municipalities' ability to build their own networks.