An organization called the Pew Charitable Trusts is launching a new research tool that hopes to lessen the digital divide across the US. The new tool is a broadband policy explorer that allows anyone to browse through each US state’s broadband policies and funding. The organization’s Broadband Research Initiative is the source behind this new tool.
People browsing the tool can look through categories like:
As users sort through and choose policies to explore, a map highlights which states have adopted such laws.
The purpose of the tool is to better understand broadband deployment laws across all 50 states. Beyond that, Pew Charitable Trusts hopes that users and policymakers will use the tool to learn about what other states are doing. Also, that policymakers and local governments will start their own analysis and comparison and publish their own pieces.
This tool shows a lot of information. For example, users looking for broadband definitions will find that in Alabama, broadband speed is defined as 10 Mbps, which is hardly fast enough to stream Netflix. In fact, that’s 10 times slower than the slowest 4G cell connection. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets the speed guideline at 25 Mbps.
While internet speed is a constant debate, the bigger issue is how many Americans don’t have broadband at all. Pew says that 21 million Americans are without broadband access, while Microsoft has its own broadband map of 163 million Americans without access.
Kathryn de Wit, manager of the Broadband Research Initiative with Pew Charitable Trusts says that “the tool is the first step in [their] ongoing research on how states are addressing gaps in broadband access.”
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