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New Jersey Behind the Curve on Broadband Funding

July 19th, 2021 by

The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the extent of the digital divide in New Jersey. As we come out of the orders to stay at home, an ongoing issue is incomplete data on internet access, speed, and prices. One suggested solution is to create an office at the state level to coordinate the data collection effort. Beyond this, state level offices can also communicate, coordinate, plan, and fund broadband efforts in general.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has published research showing that efforts to bolster broadband at the state level have been ramping up, likely due to the way the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed gaps in accessibility and has contributed to more reliance on remote work moving forward. These efforts are becoming increasingly prevalent as more states establish dedicated programs to coordinate their broadband initiatives, designate entities to run those programs, and allocate federal funds for pandemic relief to connect those in need.

More recently, Pew has released a database for state broadband programs featuring information about broadband agencies, funding programs, task forces, and offices. The database allows filtering by state on an interactive map. According to the data, New Jersey is one of only ten states that does not currently have some sort of funding mechanism for broadband. Examples of funding mechanisms include state grants and loans for internet service providers, nonprofit utility cooperatives, and local governments. Furthermore, though New Jersey currently has an agency involved in broadband projects and a task force dedicated to broadband issues, it is not one of the 26 states that have a centralized office for broadband projects.

There have been several calls for governments at every level to ensure that every American has access to high-speed internet. As with other types of critical infrastructure, a stable, long-term funding source is essential to ensuring adequate accessibility and quality. While having a centralized broadband office is not yet the norm, having a funding mechanism is now fairly widespread, and it would serve New Jersey well to join the 40 other states that have one. With dedicated funds to support the deployment of high-speed internet, New Jersey could become a model for the rest of the country in guaranteeing broadband for all.


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