The Benton Institute surveyed a number of state and local leaders about broadband. They found a number of points of agreement:
- Universal broadband is the 21st century equivalent of electrification, foundational to equity and economic prosperity in urban and rural communities alike. As the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress consider the most ambitious infrastructure funding bills since the New Deal, states and localities have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to close the digital divide.
- To close the digital divide, the federal approach to distributing funds needs to change. Respondents have the highest confidence in the abilities of local internet service providers (ISPs) and local economic development agencies to use federal funds for closing the digital divide.
- States and local governments want to determine their broadband futures, which will require changes in federal funding distribution and program standards. Respondents call for funding dispersal at the state and local level, with the flexibility to deploy that funding to directly support their own priorities.
- Empowering local communities to close the digital divide requires meaningful policy changes that complement new approaches to federal funding distribution.
- Localities cannot afford to wait.
A common thread is the emphasis on local control of funds and broadband plans.