Broadband Internet access has always been a vital part of the modern economy, but much of American life has been brought online since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many aspects of our jobs, health care, education, commerce, and social lives have had to take place over the Internet.
State governments around the country responded quickly to the resulting strain on networks. They ramped up their creative problem-solving and increased their coordination with other states and the federal government. At NTIA, we have been a partner in these broadband efforts through our State Broadband Leaders Network (SBLN), a forum for states, territories, and the District of Columbia to come together to share what works, and brainstorm new ideas to bring their citizens online.
States have employed varied strategies to help keep Americans connected. Here are some highlights:
- Arizona funded the new Arizona Rural Broadband Development Grant and continues to explore building fiber-optic infrastructure along its highways.
- Arkansas used CARES Act funding to expand its Arkansas Rural Connect broadband grant program.
- Illinois has awarded $50 million in its first round of its Connect Illinois broadband grant program and has opened up a second round. The state also launched the Illinois Connected Communities program to focus on broadband adoption and digital inclusion efforts.
- Oregon has used CARES Act funding to expand the FCC’s Lifeline phone and Internet discounts through its Oregon Lifeline Program.
- Vermont leveraged CARES Act funding to expand its existing Connectivity Initiative. The funds were focused toward expanding coverage for students, remote workers, and communities with telehealth needs.
States have been key actors in getting and keeping their citizens connected to affordable broadband Internet. NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program and its SBLN will continue to engage states and host conversations that improve best practices. To learn more about BroadbandUSA’s work with states and the SBLN visit BroadbandUSA@ntia.doc.gov or email firstname.lastname@example.org.