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Special Topics
Digital Access

A Granular Look at Internet Speeds and Demographic Groups: Implications for Digital Equity

Thematic area: Broadband

Roberto Gallardo, Purdue University Center for Regional Development

Brian Whitacre, Oklahoma State University

September 2022, Number 1

This brief takes a granular look at broadband access using three broadband speed thresholds and 2020 Census block-level data in the nation and southern region of the U.S. Results indicate that rural Census blocks continue to lag urban blocks and that the share of population, including children, declines significantly when looking at faster speeds. Surprisingly, a higher share of minorities resided in Census blocks with broadband at faster speeds compared to Whites. Robust efforts, including leveraging Extension’s trust and partnerships with providers, are needed to ensure everybody can benefit from adequate internet.

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State Policies that Impact Rural Broadband Availability

Thematic area: Broadband

Brian Whitacre, Oklahoma State University

Christina Biedny, Oklahoma State University

September 2022, Number 2

Summary Focus and Findings: States have taken a variety of approaches to improving rural broadband availability. However, few academic studies have explored the impacts of specific state-level policies. This brief examines the recent literature on this topic and highlights three main findings: 1) State funding and state broadband offices matter for increasing overall availability; 2) Restricting municipalities from offering broadband services holds back rural availability; and 3) “Dig-once” and permitting policies can improve fiber access

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Broadband Impact on Education and Workforce during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Thematic area: Broadband

Isabella Baxter, University of Maryland, College Park

Sreedhar Upendram, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 2022, Number 3

Summary Focus and Findings: A library hotspot lending program was popular with low and middle income Tennessee residents. The primary uses of broadband during the COVID-19 pandemic were for school work, connecting with family, conducting research and entertainment purposes. Residents used the program to access broadband when faced with a lack of reliable local broadband service or high-cost subscription plans. The Community Capitals Framework can be used as a strategy to address digital divide and improve broadband access for underserved communities that wish to replicate or expand similar programs. COVID-19 pandemic notably had a negative impact on work productivity and children’s academic performance.

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Broadband Availability vs. Adoption: Which Matters More for Economic Development?

Thematic area: Broadband

Brian Whitacre, Oklahoma State University

Roberto Gallardo, Purdue University Center for Regional Development

November 2022, Number 4

Summary Focus and Findings Many academic articles have explored the relationship between broadband and economic development in the United States. Looking at research published since 2012, we find that studies focusing on broadband availability find impacts on local employment and entrepreneurship- but mostly use outdated speed thresholds. Other studies show that broadband adoption is closely linked to household- and farmlevel outcomes. When both elements are considered simultaneously, adoption seems to matter more.

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