Rural Broadband Policies in a Cross-National Comparison
Posted: 30 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 29, 2016
Across a number of highly technologized countries, such as the US, the UK, Canada and Australia, we witness ongoing, if not increasing, digital divides between citizens who live in urban areas and those who live in rural and remote areas. This is not only true for the general availability of Internet access, but also and especially so for high-speed Internet access via broadband connections. Despite different historical developments across these countries and a number of different policies that were specifically designed to reduce these divides, persistent urban-rural broadband divides appear to be a universal phenomenon that has so far not been addressed successfully by any of the here examined countries.
Comparing and contrasting the history and the current state of urban-rural digital broadband divides as well as the according policies and the issues with these policies across a number of countries, this panel seeks to enable an informative discussion that provides a way forward and formulates policy recommendations that can help address urban-rural divides. Topics that will be covered include, but are not limited to, the developments observed in each respective country:
• The history of broadband adoption in urban and rural areas as well as the current state of urban-rural digital divides with a specific focus on broadband access
• The history of policies and programs specifically aimed at reducing urban-rural digital divides and broadband divides
• Issues in the implementation of policies and programs aimed at reducing urban-rural digital divides
• “Best practice” examples of policies, programs, and initiatives that made a positive impact in reducing urban-rural digital divides
• Recommendations for future policies, programs, and initiatives
In light of the very recent developments and announcements regarding the rollout of broadband in rural and underserved areas in the US (e.g. the current revision of the Lifeline program to include broadband and the recent Whitehouse announcement of the ConnectALL initiative), discussing what has worked and what has not worked across different countries and regions is highly relevant to the TPRC community. A critical comparison of initiatives across four highly connected countries can shed new light on an issue that has been debated for a number of years, but that has not been addressed successfully so far. Including “best practice” examples from all four countries will enable new and innovative perspectives and ideas.
The panel will be comprised of four experts who have conducted extensive research into rural digital divides and rural broadband policies in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia. These experts span a range of disciplines, including communication, management, social informatics, and sociology. During the first 30-40 minutes of this 90-minute panel, each of the four experts will briefly present data on their respective country (see topics above). The second 20-30 minutes of the panel discussion will focus on a critical comparison of implementation issues as well as “best practice” examples, before opening up the discussion to the audience for the remaining 30 minutes.
Keywords: rural, digital divide, broadband, policy
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