The irony is that federal support for state and local broadband efforts is now critical. The federal government has the capacity to spend money while state and local governments are facing sometimes severe budget constraints.
The best approach is to fuse federal support with state and local leadership.
The reasons are obvious. State and local governments can experiment with pragmatic solutions that solve the whole broadband problem—from building networks to ensuring that people, like the newly-unemployed, have the resources and skills to use broadband. State and local governments can also provide benefits without requiring navigation through pages and pages of complicated requirements as federal programs currently do.
Perhaps most importantly, state and local governments are nearby, not thousands of miles away, and they hear the voices of local communities.
The magnitude of the challenge requires that all the players — federal, state and local — take the field.
The sooner we start to build a comprehensive broadband agenda, informed by state and local leadership and innovation, the sooner we will reap the benefits that will come when every person can use a robust internet connection at home.
For example, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), along with Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and more than 30 other cosponsors, introduced the “Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act,” which includes funding for state broadband grants (like Virginia’s), grants to encourage state digital-equity efforts, support for local broadband efforts, and additional funds to connect local schools, libraries and community institutions.