WA: Mapping the Digital Divide

Thursday, April 26, 2007

WA: Mapping the Digital Divide

Strengthening Communities

by Nathan Newman

WA: Mapping the Digital Divide

As the United States falls behind the world in broadband deployment, a serious obstacle to reversing that slide, as we highlighted in February, is that we have remarkably poor information on which neighborhoods and families have broadband access and what the challenges are to overcoming the digital divide in our communities. 

Washington State has taken a significant step in closing that information gap by requiring its state Utilities and Transportation Commission to survey broadband access in the state.  As part of the state budget (Sec. 149) recently approved, the bill language requires:

a survey to identify factors preventing the widespread availability and use of broadband technologies. The survey must collect and interpret reliable geographic, demographic, cultural, and telecommunications technology information to identify broadband disparities in the state. The commission shall consult appropriate stakeholders in designing the survey.

The bill language was sponsored by Washington Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (honored by Progressive States last week at our annual gala for her legislative leadership on Iraq), who wrote about the need for better digital access in a recent op-ed.  She noted that the digital divide between low-income and wealthier households' broadband access has serious economic implications for the future.  With growth from information technology likely to drive the creation of 1.2 million new jobs per year:

[That] growth will accrue to communities that use the technology. Those that don't will be left behind unless we take steps now to bridge the digital gap.

Every state needs to take action to close that gap, but the digital mapping required by Sen. Kohl-Welles' study, the results of which will be reported back to the legislature before the 2008 session, is a key first step to developing a game plan for our states to regain global leadership in broadband deployment.

More Resources

Rewarding Work

by Adam Thompson

An Agenda to Reduce Poverty

While the Bush Administration has reduced taxes on the wealthiest Americans and undermined social welfare programs over the past 6 years, 5 million more Americans have fallen into poverty, bringing the total to 37 million.  That means at least one in eight Americans are now living in poverty.  

In response, a task force of academics, worker representatives, and low-income advocates convened by the Center for American Progress, has issued a report on poverty in America which includes a 12-step plan to reduce poverty levels by 50% within 10 years.  Enacting just four of the steps would lift 9.4 million Americans out of poverty and help ensure they have the tools to stay out:

  • indexing the minimum wage to half the average hourly wage ($8.40 in 2006)
  • expanding access to child care and early education
  • enacting the Employee Free Choice Act
  • expanding the earned income and child tax credits 

Other recommendations include locating affordable housing in opportunity-rich communities, increasing access to Pell Grants and other higher education assistance programs, and helping former prisoners reintegrate into their communities.  While it is likely the report's recommendations will need to wait for the next administration, cities and states are already acting to provide relief to poor families.

Poverty Commissions - California, Delaware and Vermont legislatures are moving bills to establish commissions charged with developing comprehensive plans to reduce child poverty by at least 50% within 10 years. Connecticut is moving HB 7247, a bill to designate community action agencies as the state's coordinating agencies to reduce child poverty, with the goal of cutting child poverty in half by 2014.

Financial Incentives - New York City will soon start a pilot project that gives $5,000 a year to poor families who meet goals designed to help lift them out of poverty, such as regular medical appointments, attending parent-teacher conferences and getting a full-time job.  The project is modeled after a Mexican program that has been praised by the World Bank and others as a model for fighting chronic poverty.

Low-Income Tax Credits - In addition to HB 1443, which provides income tax relief to low-income residents, Arkansas legislators are moving HB 1337 to provide an income tax credit of $75 for low-income taxpayers and each of their dependents in order to provide grocery tax relief.  In Oregon, to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by families living in poverty, Gov. Ted Kulongoski pledged to live off $21 worth of groceries for a week, which is what the average food stamp recipient spends weekly.  To help him make his purchases, a food stamp recipient and mother of three accompanied the Governor to a grocery store where she steered him away from healthier organic foods and toward low-cost staples like macaroni and cheese.

Living Wage Requirements - On the heels of Maryland's first-in-the-nation state living wage law, the Hawaii House and Senate have sent HB 760 to conference committee to iron out differences on a bill that would establish living wage requirements for service contract workers.  The bill would require public contractors to pay workers at levels similar to what public employees receive for similar work. 

Step-by-step, states can extend a hand-up for those in poverty, make sure that all work is rewarded with decent pay, and assure that low-income families have the educational and financial tools to help themselves.

More Resources

Growing Economy

By J. Mijin Cha

Greening Urban Areas: City Mayors Make Bold Moves Towards Going Green

On Earth Day, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed his plan to create the "first environmentally sustainable 21st-century city," and integrate an estimated population growth of 1 million people by 2030. PlaNYC is comprised of 127 proposals for environmental improvements in six areas: land, water, air quality, transportation, energy, and climate change. The proposals range from reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% to improving transit connections to planting 1 million new trees. 

Mayor Bloomberg's proposal adopts several policies that we have highlighted as necessary for smart growth.  PlaNYC proposes to change zoning laws near transportation to create more housing, clean and redevelop Brownfields sites to increase land availability, "fix-it-first" policies to repair public transport fareways, and upgrading energy infrastructure to provide cleaner, more reliable power.

A Surprisingly Green Big Apple: While Bloomberg's proposal will implement a comprehensive, far-reaching green plan, New York City is environmentally friendly in surprising ways. Despite being a huge urban center, New York City actually consumes less water and energy than one would expect.  Even though the population has grown to 8.2 million people, the city uses 28 percent less water than it did in 1979, a result of good government policy.  New York City requires water-saving plumbing fixtures and devices be used in renovations and new construction.  The city is also more diligent about finding and fixing water leaks and has been metering residential customers' use since the late 1980's.  All these steps have led to significant water conservation.

New York City residents also consume only one-third of the gasoline used by other Americans and the residential energy use is half that of an average American.  The energy and gasoline savings are due to several factors.  Most importantly, almost 60 percent of New York City residents use mass transit for commuting.  Another 23 percent commute by walking or biking.  New York City is the most dense urban area and more than anything, density is the key to reducing dependence on motor vehicles.

Chicago's Green Example: New York is not the first major urban area to go green, however.  In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley has dedicated his tenure to greening the city building Chicago's reputation as one of the nation's most environmentally conscious cities of any size.   Mayor Daley ordered the heads of all the city departments to make their operations environmentally friendly, including paving alleys with special asphalt to better absorb water and forbidding city vehicles to idle for more than five minutes.  The city also planted or negotiated the construction of over 2 million square feet of rooftop gardens, more than all other U.S. cities combined.  It is also among the largest users of green energy in the country.

Greening LA's Sprawl: Jumping on the bandwagon is Los Angeles, previously the poster child for sprawl and synonymous with the "brown cloud."  Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has made it one of his goals to make Los Angeles "the greenest big city in America."  Los Angeles now requires all new public buildings to be built following green standards and has implemented a water conservation plan for landscaping.  It also plans massive expansions to the light rail and subway system.  

Chicago, New York and Los Angeles: not exactly the first cities that spring to mind when you hear the term green, yet each are demonstrating ways to strengthen energy independence.  Whether by taking small steps or implementing more involved plans, every city can be a little greener.

More Resources

Rewarding Work

Update on Washington Paid Leave

We reported last week that Washington was on the verge of becoming the second state to enact family leave.  The bill has now been signed by the Governor.  While the bill was a compromise, with lower weekly payments (up to $250 per week) than is ideal and, unlike a House version originally approved, no provision to allow paid family leave to care for a seriously ill parent, the new law is a serious advance for parents needing the financial help to stay home with a new child. 

Passage of the law was due to extraordinary work and mobilization by the Economic Opportunity Institute, which has long labored for the bill, and MomsRising, a key partner of Progressive States Network in promoting family-friendly policies.  As MomsRising details, the campaign for the bill included 14,000 emailed letters, hundreds of phone calls, and many direct delegations to legislators, along with innovative visual strategies like assembling a massive display of Onesies decorated by members with messages highlighting the need for family leave -- all adding up to a tremendous victory for families.


Research Roundup

A new report by Service Employees International Union shows the negative effects that result when private equity takes public companies private.   Not only does the public lose access to critical information needed to maintain the accountability of corporations, but workers are usually allowed no voice in the deals and usually receive little benefit from them.

According to a new study by the National Immigration Forum, the public overwhelmingly (71%) supports comprehensive immigration reforms that includes enhanced border security and a path for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship.

Sprawl and long commutes don't just damage the planet through wasted gasoline, they also harm commuters by raising blood pressure, causing more illness and negatively impacting home life, according to a report by UC Irvine's Institute of Transportation Studies.

Abstinence education programs have no effect on promoting the sexual abstinence of young people, according to a new report conducted on behalf of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

How corrupt is our prescription drug system?  Nearly 95% of physicians in the U.S. are plied with free food, beverages, sports tickets, or other benefits by drug company sales reps, according to a new survey by the New England Journal of Medicine.


WA: Mapping the Digital Divide

WA State Budget (Sec. 149)-budget language requiring survey of broadband deployment and barriers to digital access

Progressive States Network, Mapping Broadband Access

GAO, Broadband Deployment Is Extensive throughout the United States, But It Is Difficult to Assess the Extent of Deployment Gaps in Rural Areas (May 2006)

An Agenda to Reduce Poverty

Center for American Progress

National Center for Children in Poverty

Southern Poverty Law Center

Urban Institute

Greening Urban Areas: City Mayors Make Bold Moves Towards Going Green


The Greening of Chicago

No More Freeways: Los Angeles on the Road to Become one of the Greenest American Cities

Eye on the Right

North Carolina's John Locke Foundation has released a report criticizing the Johnston County Growth Management Committee's smart growth policy recommendation to their County Commission. The Foundation argues that rapid expansion in the area has been matched by revenue growth, making smart growth unnecessary and a threat to continued growth. Smart growth isn't just about fiscal solvency, it's about sustainable, sensible growth in terms of commute times, green spaces, environmental impact, and quality of life. Moreover, as any investment document will tell you "past performance does not necessarily predict future results."  Current fiscal growth might slow as infrastructure development and maintenance covers a larger area. When building a home, one doesn't factor for return on investment next year, but quality of life and long term appreciation. Why should we build communities any differently?


The Pew Center on the States, a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the JEHT Foundation have announced $2 million in grants available to help diagnose how well U.S. elections are run and plan pilot projects to be conducted in 2007 and 2008.

The request for proposals (RFP) is part of a larger Pew initiative called Make Voting Work. Make Voting Work is focused on improving the accuracy, convenience, efficiency and security of U.S. elections. Proposals will be accepted through June 4, 2007.

For more information please visit to read the RFP or FAQ with details on how to apply and get connected with potential partners.

Jobs & Internships

Check out current opportunities with Progressive States on the Jobs & Internships Page.


The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate


Please shoot me an email at if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

John Bacino
Editor, Stateside Dispatch


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