Toward a balanced approach to state-level broadband policy

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2021-05
Authors
Behrens, Matthew
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Shelley, Mack C
Gilbert, Stephen
Kurtenbach, James
Peters, David
Stone, Richard T
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Political Science
Abstract
State governments have taken an active role in the development of broadband policy in recent years, but are they focused on the right balance of considerations? Today, virtually all states offer some form of broadband program, but the majority of these emphasize increases in broadband access, with little attention paid to questions of broadband adoption. The purpose of this research is to advance consideration for a balanced approach to broadband policy at the state level—an approach that includes both access and adoption dimensions. In service of that purpose, this investigation begins with an exploration of state planning efforts, including a qualitative content analysis of 41 state broadband plans from 2012 to 2020. Through the application of a leading theory of technology adoption, imbalances in state broadband planning are identified. Next, the research explores the policy process through a quantitative analysis of policy domains associated with successful broadband access policy at the state level. Both public and industry support were found to have positive predictive effects on broadband policy enactment, suggesting new strategies for advocates of a balanced approach to influence the policy process at the state level. Finally, this dissertation provides a preview of future research to examine the effects of broadband adoption on the leading justification for broadband policy at the state level. Through a quantitative analysis of United States Census Bureau American Community Survey microdata for Iowa, this preliminary work will seek to determine whether mean differences in household income and educational attainment exist between broadband adopters and non-adopters. Should such findings be confirmed upon further investigation, policymakers interested in the benefits of broadband policy for economic and educational attainment will have further evidence with which to support a balanced approach that includes both access and adoption policy interventions.
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