Broadband Communities

JAN-FEB 2018

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 4 6 | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 8 Broadband Assistance Drives Job Growth An innovative program in Pennsylvania leveraged stimulus funds to drive broadband deployment, adoption and use. Small and mid-sized businesses flourished. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities P ennsylvania was among the first U.S. states to recognize that broadband was necessary for a strong economy. As early as 2004, the state passed a law requiring incumbent phone companies to enable universal broadband service (defined at that time as 1.5 Mbps down/128 Kbps up) by 2015. e law also funded broadband mapping and school broadband deployment, and it allowed communities that aggregated demand to petition service providers for earlier broadband deployment. e program was effective. e state map was in place in 2006, and each succeeding year showed improvements in school connectivity and overall broadband availability. When the broadband stimulus program arrived in 2009, "Comparatively, we were in a pretty good position," says Sue Suleski, director of strategic initiatives for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). HARNESSING THE STIMULUS PROGRAM Unlike states that were just beginning to focus on broadband issues, Pennsylvania harnessed the stimulus program to make significant strides. With funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), it enhanced its broadband maps, upgraded its wireless public safety network and created a statewide, public- private research and education network. In addition, it used about $3 million to launch the Broadband Technical Assistance Program, which aimed to help businesses and community anchor institutions adopt and use broadband. To meet the NTIA's mandate for quick economic results, the DCED considered how it could use its existing programs to make an impact. Suleski says, "Partnership is important. We're an enabler, but progress is going to happen on the ground in communities. So we were very fortunate to have a robust economic development network to plug into, including industrial resource centers, Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, local development districts, economic development corporations, you name it. … We leveraged our existing model [for working with these partners] of providing assistance to clients, handholding along the way and measuring the impact – that's something we do every day." ough the partnership model was consistent across the board, Suleski says, the agency didn't want a "cookie cutter" approach to assistance. Rather, it asked partners to engage with individual businesses and anchor institutions to discover what would help each one overcome barriers to broadband access, adoption and use. e partners were to offer recommendations that were easy and practical to follow and, if appropriate, provide money (so-called microgrants) or technically trained

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