With many states focusing on workforce development and college completion, opportunities and pathways for students to earn a college degree or complete credentials through online education programs are increasing. While these programs may be available to students, participation and ease of access can be limited by a student’s access to quality, high-speed broadband services that are also affordable.

Availability of and access to these services is based on geography, and there is an ongoing debate regarding the expansion of broadband networks. Twenty-three states have enacted laws that prohibit or restrict efforts to develop municipal broadband networks, and legislative efforts to expand and limit municipalities’ broadband authority have recently gained traction across the county.

A new Education Trends report from Education Commission of the States, Inhibiting Connection: State policy impacting expansion of municipal broadband networks, discusses the debate around municipal broadband expansion and also examines the policies that states have enacted that impact municipal broadband networks.

“Municipal broadband networks can serve as a tool to provide broadband to areas that do not have adequate access and are unable to support the needs of students,” said  Lauren Sisneros, a policy analyst at Education Commission of the States. “This report can serve as a guide for policymakers to understand their states’ policies addressing municipal broadband networks.”

Some key takeaways from this report:

  • As a growing number of students experience a postsecondary education online, the necessity for state leadership to ensure that citizens have adequate and affordable access to broadband service increases.
  • Municipalities are making efforts to expand broadband. Municipal broadband networks can provide affordable high-speed broadband access to communities that otherwise might not have access.
  • Laws in more than 20 states restrict or prohibit local governments from building their own broadband networks. State education policymakers may be well served to consider their states’ policy addressing municipal broadband networks.

For questions, contact Education Commission of the States Communications Director Amy Skinner at askinner@ecs.org or (303) 299.3609.

Tweet this ECS report!

  • New from @edcommission: Inhibiting Connection: State policy impacting expansion of municipal broadband networks http://bit.ly/2ctfhox
  • New report @edcommission looks at growing online #highered & need to ensure access to adequate/affordable broadband http://bit.ly/2ctfhox
  • Laws in 20+ states restrict or prohibit local gov’ts from building their own broadband networks. More @edcommission http://bit.ly/2ctfhox

Related ECS resources that you will find useful:

Broadband access and implications for efforts to address equity gaps in postsecondary attainment: This education trends report focuses on two related but distinct challenges confronting state policy leaders and students as they seek to leverage online distance education to meet personal and statewide education goals, namely access to infrastructure and ensuring availability of financial resources.

 PUBLISHED: September 8, 2016




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