- 00:15 – Better government services through broadband.
- 01:15 – How it could help the part-time mayor.
- 01:58 – The importance of working with anchor institutions for BEAD funding.
- 02:50 – State broadband offices recognize the importance of local ISPs to their communities. It is about the “Why”.
- 04:42 – Timing and financing are potential barriers to obtaining BEAD funding.
- 05:50 – Working with rural ISPs has helped inform Pew’s research. “It is a hard business, but they are getting it done.”
An All-of-Community Approach
“One of the benefits of ubiquitous, affordable connectivity is that we can use it to improve citizens’ experience with government,” states Kathryn de Wit, Project Director of the Broadband Access Initiative for the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Speaking at NTCA’s 2023 SRC Live, de Wit points to research from her Pew colleagues regarding improvements in the civil justice system, thanks to broadband and the forcing function of the pandemic. Their research, which emanates from Pew’s Civil Legal System Modernization program, indicates that broadband has made participation easier and increased satisfaction with the civil justice system.
Still, Pew found that to maximize the benefit of a broadband connection, there needs to be an associated development of technological tools that aid in process improvement. It requires evaluating the tools and processes with real users to understand their efficacy. Finally, it means applying the resulting feedback to make incremental process improvements.
Pew’s suggestions point to opportunities for NTCA members that already work closely with local government and civic institutions. That is, NTCA members are naturally close to members and often have programs to help their customers understand how to get the most from their broadband connection. They can serve as the bridge to bring customers and institutions together to help improve access to government services. In the case of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, and Home Telecom, this sort of partnership resulted in a bit of a miracle.
Community support, both from local institutions and customers, will be important when applying for BEAD and other funding. As depicted so well in KanOkla’s promotional piece, shown above, it is the local ISPs that are at the center of successful rural broadband deployments.
Pew’s research indicates that state broadband offices recognize the critical role of rural ISPs in bringing broadband to underserved communities and regions. It is what de Wit terms an “all-of-community approach” that state broadband offices want to see. With their local roots, NTCA members are well positioned to be the providers that continue to bring service to broadband-deficient rural locales.