Making Broadband Investments Count

As connectivity becomes increasingly important to everyday life, policymakers at all levels can take action to streamline broadband infrastructure projects and improve internet access for all communities.

1 minute read

April 7, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

As the federal government prepares to distribute billions in funding to broadband infrastructure, among other projects, Bruce P. Mehlman outlines three important principles for ensuring "maximum return on our broadband investments."

First, Mehlman cautions that "one size does not fit all" when it comes to infrastructure investments. "Policymakers focusing on broadband connectivity need to consider a myriad of conditions, from population density, average incomes, geology, and topography to the range of competitive offerings already available, when determining program design and objectives."

Second, Mehlman recommends close coordination between federal, state, and local officials, as well as private sector providers who bring "critical knowledge." According to Mehlman, "States can benefit from appointing 'broadband tzars' to focus maniacally on closing digital divides, investigate availability shortcomings and their causes, proselytize adoption, and actively coordinate efforts among all players."

Mehlman also recommends prioritizing connectivity and streamlining the approval process for broadband infrastructure projects. "Unfortunately, it’s a lot more expensive to build infrastructure in the United States than in most other countries. While multiple reasons explain America’s higher costs and longer delays, bureaucratic inertia stands as one of the most significant barriers to successful broadband deployment." 

Mehlman concludes that "If the great broadband buildout is to succeed, policymakers need to understand that Congress appropriating the money is not the end, but merely the end of the beginning."

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