On Friday, Progressive States Network will host a conference call to highlight how state lawmakers can use the Obama Administration’s focus on using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to improve the country’s digital infrastructure as an opportunity to make long overdue investments in technologies that will produce sustained development for local economies.
Participants will provide an analysis of the guidelines under which the $7.2 billion appropriated in ARRA for broadband initiatives will be distributed, as well as highlight what role state legislators will play as the grant process moves forward. But more than just detailing the provisions of ARRA, the call will focus on how lawmakers can use increased federal funding for broadband to invest in programs that will improve health care, energy management, and education so that states can achieve long-term growth and prosperity.
Two initiatives that will receive close attention are broadband strategy councils and digital inclusion programs. These increasingly popular programs go beyond simply laying cable and attempt to create new economic efficiencies and combat the digital divide. Strategy councils help states implement initiatives to increase access and adoption in a coordinated fashion that will help states meet their long-term goals,while digital inclusion initiatives will create training programs that will give all residents the tools they need to use new technologies to participate in the information economy.
According to PSN Broadband Policy Specialist Julie Schwartz, “By now we all know that our country has neglected its digital infrastructure for far too long. But we haven’t talked enough about what we should do with that infrastructure once we build it. Creating access isn’t enough. We have to make sure that once we have access, we have the cutting edge applications and the digital literacy in place to take advantage of it. More than perhaps anyone else, states are in an optimal position to make sure we do. This call will tell people how.”
For more information on Progressive States Network’s guidelines for implementing ARRA’s broadband provisions, see http://progressivestates.org/stimulus-broadband