Expanding U.S. Broadband, Internet Infrastructure
Broadband access is widely regarded as a critical driver of economic growth and a potentially transformative force in education, government services, public safety and health care. Nevertheless, the United States lags other developed nations in broadband Internet access, particularly in rural areas.
In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission introduced the National Broadband Plan, which outlined its goals for national investment in broadband infrastructure. At the same time, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dedicated $7.2 billion in stimulus funds to broadband projects, both wireless and land-based.
The Pew Center on the States’ report “Bringing America Up to Speed: States Role in Expanding Broadband” reviews the challenges of implementing nationwide access.
Important points in the report include:
- Some 100 million Americans, or 35% of households, are without broadband access in their homes.
- The FCC estimates it will cost $23.5 billion to extend access nationwide.
- More than half of the states have regions where less than 50% of households have broadband access.
- The estimated cost to reach 250,000 “extremely rural” households is $13.4 billion — more than half the total.
- Only 15 states have dedicated agencies that focus on broadband and few have done comprehensive access mapping. Varied ownership of utility infrastructure forces piecemeal expansion.
The report notes that significant issues of inequality mark the challenges around broadband access. Only 40% of households earning less than $20,000 annually use broadband. Most states lack agencies or authorities dedicated to these problems, and financing wider broadband reach to poorer residents, particularly in rural areas, remains unfeasible in many circumstances.
Tags: poverty, technology, infrastructure
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the Pew Center on the States report "Slow-Going in High Speed Internet: Expanding U.S. Broadband Infrastructure."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related Washington Post article "Bypassing the Big Guys to Get Broadband."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.