Governors Start 2021 by Expanding Access to Broadband

Governors are proposing record levels of investments in broadband infrastructure.

by Jake Varn, Policy Analyst, Infrastructure

Tens of millions of Americans lack a reliable, high-speed internet connection due to either the absence of adequate infrastructure or the unaffordability of service at sufficient speeds. The Census Bureau estimates that as of January 2021, at least 3.8 million households with school-aged children either only sometimes, rarely, or never have internet access from their homes. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the internet had arguably already become an essential service for participating in modern society. Today, the internet’s essential status is no longer arguable.

As Governors continue to deliver their State of the State Addresses, expanding affordable, high-speed internet access has emerged as a key priority for states and territories in 2021. To date, at least 40 Governors have highlighted broadband infrastructure, and the technologies required for remote learning and telemedicine, as critical to closing equity gaps and for responding to both the coronavirus related pandemic and the associated economic crisis.

These emphases on broadband infrastructure come on the heels of the $900 billion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress at the end of 2020, which included a $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund to be administered by the Federal Communications Commission. This fund will provide $50-per-month internet subsidies for low-income households or those that have lost employment as a result of the pandemic, $75-per-month internet subsidies for service on tribal lands, and discounts for connected devices.


Excerpts of Governor Speeches (click to view)


Beyond the Speeches

Matching rhetoric with action, many Governors also started 2021 by launching new broadband initiatives and program expansions in their 2021 state budget proposals. Governors have a key role in expanding broadband access, with a unique capacity to set policy priorities, connect multiple agencies, and work across jurisdictions on the inherently intersectional nature of broadband policy. Many programs and investments Governors announced in 2021 follow the best practices identified in NGA’s recent paper, “Governor Strategies to Expand Affordable Broadband Access.

Establishing Robust, Cross-Cutting Governance Structures

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont introduced a new plan to promote broadband build-out and increase equitable access, setting a statewide goal for universal access by 2027. Accordingly, the proposed budget includes resources for the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to create a dedicated broadband office to track deployment policies and standards, and resources to increase mapping efforts, support municipal governments, and coordinate deployment though dig-once policies and the permitting process. The proposal also includes regulatory oversight reforms and consumer protections under the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.


Initiating Strategic Partnerships to Kickstart Broadband Investments

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a bill amending the state’s Telecommunications Regulatory Reform Act to allow municipal governments to build broadband infrastructure.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced a new $9 million initiative, Mass Internet Connect, to improve broadband internet access in communities that lack reliable access. The program will partner with service providers Comcast, Spectrum, and Verizon, and the Massachusetts Broadband Institute’s Last Mile Program to support broadband services for underserved communities.


Leveraging Anchor Institutions

California Governor Gavin Newsom released a 2021–2022 budget proposal to increase funding for broadband access to the state’s public education institutions and to support distance learning opportunities. The proposal includes nearly $1 million for state library access and $8 million for the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (which provides broadband access to the state’s public libraries, community colleges, state universities, and other educational entities). In total, the state expects to provide $354 million over the next five years for broadband infrastructure improvements and technology investments. The proposed budget builds on Gov. Newsom’s 2020 Executive Order launching the recently released California Broadband Action Plan, and the goals set to make affordable and inclusive broadband access available to all Californians.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a broadband proposal to bridge the “homework gap” by launching a new hardship fund to pay for internet subscriptions for students who cannot afford a $15-per-month plan during the COVID-19 crisis. The fund will be created in partnership with Gov. Cuomo’s blue-ribbon Reimagine New York Commission, Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation. Further, to ensure students also get the laptops and hot-spots they need, New York will expedite Smart Schools Bond Act funding to school districts to meet outstanding device needs.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s proposed budget includes an $118 million investment in broadband expansion, with more than $10 million dedicated to expanding connectivity for schools without sufficient broadband services. This proposal also focuses on providing access to communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.


Leveraging Existing Infrastructure Projects with Dig-Once Coordination

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is proposing to invest more than $40 million in 2021 to expand broadband across rural Arizona. Gov. Ducey’s 2021 policy vision for rural broadband includes the recommendation to “open the rights of way along our state highways to help private broadband companies find cost-effective routes to our underserved rural communities.”

The proposal includes investing $33.1 million to add 195 miles of broadband conduit and fiber along Arizona’s I-40. The Governor also proposed investing $10 million to expand the Rural Broadband Development Grant Program, aimed at accelerating the development of last-mile rural broadband infrastructure, directly connecting homes and businesses.


Leveraging Electric Utilities Infrastructure and Services

Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s budget proposal includes $20 million to extend internet to more Vermont homes by leveraging local utilities, with $1.5 million dedicated to help local utility and communications districts plan for broadband buildout.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp highlighted a new partnership between electric cooperatives Central Georgia Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) and Southern Rivers Energy, and the internet service provider Conexon, to expand broadband access to an estimated 80,000 households across an 18-county, 6,890-mile fiber network. At the press conference announcing the partnership, Gov. Kemp said, “[This] will have a real impact on the lives of countless hard-working Georgians. With expanded broadband access comes new job opportunities, improved education tools, and access to telemedicine. This partnership is why I signed Senate Bill 2 in 2019 to allow EMCs the authority to provide broadband service. The legislation was intended to encourage what you see today – EMCs and community leaders, working together on creative solutions to close the gap between those with internet service and those without. This is an important leap forward, but make no mistake: We are just getting started.”


Coordinating and Expanding Affordability Programs

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his proposal to enact a “first-in-the-nation” requirement for affordable internet for all low-income families, by requiring all internet providers to offer a service plan priced at $15 per month to low-income households. The affordability requirements are part of Gov. Cuomo’s 2021 connectivity agenda, which also includes a series of actions to protect consumers through better disclosures, promote broadband build-out and market competition, and undertake new digital inclusion efforts. New York is also launching a website to help New Yorkers find an affordable service plan in their area and report on coverage gaps and consumer experiences.

The broadband initiative in Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s proposed budget includes a new Urban Connectivity program through Oregon Housing and Community Services to create a subsidy for urban communities that have broadband access but face affordability barriers limiting adoption.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced a $200 million broadband proposal in his State of the State address, dubbing 2021 as the “year of broadband access.” The proposal includes$40 million for supporting affordability programs for low-income households and $150 million for grants to build out broadband infrastructure.


Improving Broadband Coverage Maps

On Jan. 21, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman announced the launch of the Kentucky Broadband Speed Test, to better identify where expanded internet access is most needed. The program will collect anonymous internet speed data from Jan. 19 to Feb. 18. Gov. Beshear’s budget proposal for 2021 contains $50 million dedicated to broadband expansion for areas in need.

North Carolina has launched a new broadband data dashboard, which includes the first six months of results from the state’s ongoing survey of residents’ internet speed tests. The dashboard is updated daily and created in partnership with the state’s Broadband Infrastructure Office, the North Carolina Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, and North Carolina State University’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation.


Other Recent Broadband Highlights

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s new budget proposals include $40 million to establish a Rural Innovation Fund and $30 million to continue building high-speed broadband connectivity in rural areas ($20 million for the current fiscal year and $10 million for each year going forward).

Idaho Governor Brad Little’s “Building Idaho’s Future” plan to invest in the state’s infrastructure proposes a combined $54 million for broadband and economic development, specifically to, “bring broadband access to rural unserved or underserved households.”

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is awarding more than $20 million in broadband grants to 39 projects in the sixth year of the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program. The state grant dollars are matched by more than $33 million in local funds and will provide new or improved access to nearly 7,000 businesses, homes, and community anchor institutions.

Echoing his remarks in the State of the State address, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts testified at the state Legislature’s transportation and telecommunications committee in favor of Legislative Bill 388, stating, “It’s important that Nebraska invest in broadband access just like was invested in rural electrification and rural telephones to make sure we grow the entire state… We’ve got to have this infrastructure, it’s basic.”

If passed, the bill would create a Broadband Bridge Program to distribute $20 million per year for the next two years to underserved and unserved communities, defined as those that lack internet service that reaches a threshold speed of either 25/3 mbps (unserved) or 100/25 (underserved). The grants would be for projects that are able to meet a minimum of 100/100 mbps, with a priority on the unserved population and projects that leverage federal funds. The state estimates that the program would expand access to 30,000 Nebraskans.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s 2022 – 2023 budget proposal includes $290 million for new broadband expansion programs, with $125 million per year focused on broadband infrastructure grants and $20 million per year for residential expansion grants.

In a letter to the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, Governor Tom Wolf highlighted a number of the state’s federal priorities on infrastructure, including increased funding for broadband, stating, “It is absolutely critical that additional funding for broadband access be included in federal legislation, so that our commonwealth can meet the challenges of the 21st century and embrace new opportunities for growth and competitiveness.” 

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s proposed budget called for appropriating $100 million to expand high-speed rural broadband access in the state, as appears in South Dakota Senate Bill 34. The bill would give priority to projects that 1) leverage private investment, federal grants, or existing infrastructure, 2) serve a location that does not have access to broadband speeds above 100/20 mbps, and 3) efficiently connect the most homes, businesses, and community anchor institutions at the highest speeds. In the annual budget address, Gov. Noem also touted the return on investment the broadband program Connect SD has delivered to South Dakota.

In a listening session with construction workers, small business leaders, and advocates, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that in this legislative session, Texas lawmakers must remove barriers that slow down and prevent broadband deployment. In his biennial address to the Texas Legislature, Gov. Abbott identified increasing broadband access as one of five emergency items up for immediate consideration.

The first budget request of newly elected Utah Governor Spencer Cox includes a one-time investment of $50 million for expanding broadband and fiber access. Gov. Cox’s budget also recommends renovating state facilities and reconfiguring state workspaces with a $50 million one-time investment and $3 million in ongoing funding to avoid future capital development costs and facilitate a continued focus of telework, and for state agencies to solidify and expand telework as a part of the state workplace culture.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced the awarding of nearly $30 million in grants to be used to expand high-speed internet across Virginia, the awarded grants are estimated to reach more than 11,700 households. The funding, provided through the state Department of Housing and Community Development, targets regions currently underserved by high-speed internet providers. The funding is being distributed as part of a $50 million commitment made by Governor Northam as part of his 2020 budget, and he is proposing an additional $15 million proposed for Virginia’s 2022 budget.


Continued Focus

At NGA, we will continue to provide Governors’ offices and their staff with resources and guidance on the best practices and innovative strategies for expanding affordable broadband access, including standing up a new network of Governors’ broadband advisors in February to coordinate on broadband expansion and affordability. More information can be found at: nga.org/broadband

“Another place where COVID-19 exposed a weak link in our state’s infrastructure was in the area of broadband and internet connectivity. Thankfully, the Legislature is already committed to working to address this deficiency, and I look forward to continuing to partner with them to assist internet providers to extend service for the underserved areas of our state. And just last week, I partnered with C-Spire for their $500 million dollar investment in Alabama over the next three years. This investment will provide broadband to 100,000 homes and businesses in our state and create 250 jobs. These investments and the commitment of elected leaders, will make great headway in this critical area of infrastructure”

-Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (text)

“Among other agenda items requiring our attention, let’s work on broadband expansion . . . greater access to telemedicine . . . better roads and bridges… continuing to be a global leader on water innovation… better equipment and training for law enforcement . . . criminal justice reform... and guarding against wildfires, so we stay on top of that ever-present risk.”

- Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (text)

“We have, for the first time, devoted state resources to expand high speed internet in unreached areas of our state. $86.8 million has been invested in the Rural Connect Grant program. This has provided internet access to over 70,000 Arkansans, who previously lacked service. This is progress.”

“I'm also asking for support to expand high-speed internet into more rural areas of our state. We have to reduce the digital divide. We have to provide education fairly in all areas of our state. And it takes high-speed internet to do this and so much more from improving the quality of life to attracting businesses and entrepreneurs. I've set aside $30 million for this purpose in our proposed budget. If we can, let's do more, it is such a great need for our state.”

- Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (text)

"This year, we will invest $10 billion in the nuts and bolts of California – infrastructure like roads, rail, bridges and public transit – the biggest infrastructure package since the great recession over a decade ago. Building toward universal broadband, connecting all Californians equitably and affordably."

- California Governor Gavin Newsom (text)

“We will invest in our rural communities, continue bringing broadband to every corner of our state so that students and small business owners from Fort Morgan to Fruita can seize opportunity.

...

This pandemic has also forced us to be creative as we’ve reimagined our health care system. Think, for example, of telehealth — including behavioral telehealth — which isn’t just a useful innovation in a time of social distancing. It’s a convenient tool for folks who want to receive care from the comfort of their own homes, and it’s literally a lifesaver for many Coloradans in rural areas who may live far away from doctors and clinics and hospitals."

- Colorado Governor Jared Polis (text)

“With many students having to learn from home, COVID revealed that too many students are left on the wrong side of the digital divide that exacerbates the achievement gap. Computers, internet access, and broadband – these are the tools essential to students’ success during COVID and for the foreseeable future. When the pandemic struck, we worked together – public, private, and nonprofits – to solve this digital divide.”

“In this coming year, we will be expanding our commitment to affordable housing, access to broadband, transit-oriented development, open choice school incentives, as well as an expansion of our workforce development and small business growth fund. That’s how we get Connecticut growing again, and working for all of our families, with liberty and justice for all.”

-Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont (text)

“Last year, despite the pandemic, we continued to fund the largest infrastructure program in the history of our state. In Kent and Sussex counties, we have made it a priority to expand access to high-speed broadband and eliminate internet deserts. In the past year, we expanded wireless broadband to over 500 Delawareans. That number continues to grow each week. During the pandemic, this work became more important than ever. The Department of Education and DTI partnered to create the Connect Delaware program. Through this program, we provided over 25,000 low-income students with reliable internet access. And I want to thank Jason Clarke, our new Chief Information Officer, and his team for their hard work on this broadband initiative.”

-Delaware Governor John Carney (text)

“This pandemic highlighted many challenges for communities outside of metro Atlanta, but maybe none more-so than the critical need for high-speed internet access for better health care and educational outcomes, for job opportunities, and something as simple as keeping in touch with loved ones. That is why I’m proud to announce that we’re including $20 million for this fiscal year and $10 million per year moving forward to boost access to rural broadband grants so local leaders can continue a growing and vital partnership with the private sector and quickly improve internet access for the people of rural Georgia.”

-Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (text)

"As we lay the foundation for a stronger, better, more prosperous Guam, we must acknowledge the fact that too many on our island do not have access to reliable and stable internet—a necessity in our increasingly digital world.

We are currently developing broadband infrastructure to support island-wide internet that is accessible and equitable for all of our people. On an island 30 miles long, there should be no excuse for digital inequity.

As a pilot to Internet for All, my administration has been working with the Guam Department of Education and the Mayors Council of Guam to bring internet services to students who need it the most. We have already received the procurement bids and they are being evaluated. Soon, thousands of schoolchildren will have access to reliable internet services.

The two fastest growing sectors in the United States are healthcare and technology—industries that my Administration has been working on since we came into office. Early last year, I tasked GEDA to create committees to explore healthcare, technology, and telecommunication opportunities to better understand and expand our labor force."

- Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero (text)

“In addition, the pandemic has accelerated economic trends that were already underway. They include the rise in remote work and the demand for digital skills. These trends and the intervention of the pandemic show clearly where the future is. We must invest in our digital economy to be a player in that future. More importantly, the pivot to a digital economy will serve as a foundation for our economic resilience. It will help us to better weather future disruptions, no matter the makeup of our economic engine. In a digital economy, it doesn’t matter where your workstation is located. In a digital economy, Hawai’i’s workforce can compete globally, contributing to higher wages and a higher quality of life. More importantly, we can keep our kamaʻāina here to reverse the brain drain. Because, in a digital economy, our children won’t have to move to the mainland to secure good jobs. But to do that, we will need to provide the right environment. Every government, business and nonprofit organization must embrace digital technology to thrive. We need to develop a clear vision for a more diversified and sustainable economy that is compatible with our culture and way of life. And that vision must be based on solid economic analyses. A post-COVID Hawai’i cannot be a Hawai’i as it used to be. That’s why, in the wake of the pandemic, I am calling for the creation of a program of action to not just reboot but to upgrade our economy. To create a Hawai’i 2.0, if you will.”

“A critical part of re-programming our economy is also the creation of a healthy statewide broadband network. During the pandemic, the importance of broadband to everything that we do was made all too real. All of us dramatically increased online activities, such as online learning, telework, telehealth, and workforce development and training. At the same time, a broadband hui, made up of more than 200 local stakeholders, met to find a path through the pandemic to the future. Their long-term goal aligns with the state’s in developing a broadband infrastructure that is accessible and equitable for all. My thanks to members of the hui and the State’s Broadband Officer, Burt Lum, and many others for their collective efforts to increase our connectivity both during and after the pandemic. I can assure you that broadband will be a priority for the state in the coming years. I have directed Ed Sniffen, DOT Deputy Director of Highways, to accelerate his pilot project to connect rural communities to broadband service. He will be leveraging federal funds with state and private sector resources. The project will focus on Puna, Kaʻu, Hana, Nānākuli, Waiʻanae, Waimānalo, Kalihi and Kapaʻa. I am also directing my cabinet to implement projects to connect rural and underserved communities to similar projects. Clearly, the pandemic has highlighted the digital inequity in Hawai’i. Part of our task is to make sure that a student in Nānākuli can access an online lesson plan as easily as a student in Kāhala—and that, in a digital Hawai’i, everyone’s connected. Likewise, with an FCC grant, we will support a telehealth initiative to connect low-income patients with high medical risks to healthcare providers. DHHL will receive at least $30 million in federal funds to benefit Native Hawaiians. In addition, my legislative package this year includes a bill to create a Broadband and Digital Equity Office to oversee these efforts. This office will also enable us to identify and secure Hawai’i’s share of $7 billion in new federal funds for broadband infrastructure and digital equity programs.
The pandemic has made it painfully clear that life in the future will be ALL about being connected.”

-Hawai’i Governor David Ige (text)

“Idaho will benefit for years to come from the $50 million investment in broadband infrastructure to support remote working and learning and more economic opportunity in rural Idaho. We all play a role in choosing to protect lives, our economy, and our kids’ ability to continue learning in their classrooms. It is a responsibility shared by all of us.”

“Parents continue to do much of the heavy lifting for their children’s education during this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. I know it isn’t easy. I know at times it has felt impossible to balance work demands while facilitating online learning for your children at home. Many of you lost paychecks or left your jobs to be there for your children during this unprecedented time. Our $50 million “Strong Families, Strong Students” initiative supported many of these families by helping them access the technology and educational services required for successful at-home learning.”

“For our kids to have a future in Idaho, they also need equal access to education. We must continue to make investments in internet connectivity. Last year, a family in Kootenai County was struggling with distance learning. The family didn’t have access to broadband so the two children had to use their mom’s cell phone and data plan to complete their schoolwork. In Arimo, students struggled during the pandemic with equal access because they didn’t have the internet speeds necessary for video conferencing. Now, thanks to our investments, these students have better learning opportunities. There are many more stories like these. Simply put, broadband access is central to commerce, economic growth, and education. We’ve made major progress – from Aberdeen to Winchester – and my plan continues that momentum.”

- Idaho Governor Brad Little (text)

"Telecommuting, telehealth, remote learning, videoconferencing — this pandemic laid bare the need for reliable broadband across the state. Fortunately, in 2019, working with the General Assembly, I prioritized broadband with the most aggressive vision for high speed internet in the nation. Through our public-private Connect Illinois program, we're connecting over 26,000 residents who had been left out of the digital revolution, and it's redefined the healthcare, education, and economic opportunities for their communities. At least $50 million in additional state matching grants will be awarded this year, making substantial progress on our goal of universal access in 2024."

- Governor JB Pritzker (Text)

“One thing we all know the pandemic has made clear: Broadband connectivity is an essential tool for students. We’ve distributed $61 million to K-12 schools and higher education institutions to improve remote learning during the pandemic. But connectivity is just as essential for workers, entrepreneurs, and farmers. Our Next Level Broadband program to date will provide access to more than 21,000 homes and businesses, including health clinics, fire departments and police stations. The additional $100 million I’m requesting will enable us to continue making progress, bringing improved speed to all corners of our state for all Hoosiers.”

“We’ll usher in more telehealth capabilities so we can make permanent many services that people have been receiving from home during the pandemic. Not surprising, many of them are for mental health issues.”

-Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (text)

“…there are a few big issues that we can begin to address tonight. The need for universal broadband is one of them. As we’ve seen during the pandemic, high-speed internet is as vital to our communities as running water and electricity; if they don’t have it, they can’t grow. Every year I’ve been governor, I’ve focused on expanding broadband to every Iowa community, and we’re making progress. But not enough. About a third of our counties are still broadband deserts, where high-speed internet is rarely offered. And for many Iowans, it’s just not affordable. Iowa also has the second lowest broadband speeds in the country. I’m done taking small steps and hoping for big change. This is the time for bold action and leadership. Let’s plant a stake in the ground and declare that every part of Iowa will have affordable, high-speed broadband by 2025. We’ll get there by committing $450 million over that time period, which will leverage millions more in private investment, giving Iowa the biggest buildout of high-speed internet in the country.”

-Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (text)

“Agriculture is one of many industries increasingly relying on high speed internet to meet the demands of their customers and for their day to day operations…In fact, in today’s economy, businesses small and large depend upon broadband – both because this pandemic has required many of us to work remotely, and because of the broader shift we have seen from retail to etail commerce. It’s an issue my administration has treated with the urgency it mandates. I signed an Executive Order establishing Kansas’s first Office of Broadband Development – and through it, we’ve distributed nearly 50 million dollars in Connectivity Emergency Response Grants, to communities like Spring Hill, Valley Center, Dodge City, Topeka, Derby and others. We have to keep pushing on this issue. It needs to be a bi-partisan push. Because access to high speed internet will be a game changer for these communities. It’s a tool to recruit new businesses and keep existing ones from leaving. It’s also a tool to provide care through telehealth services to rural and underserved Kansans. And it’s a tool for our children and their education. This pandemic has taught us that learning remotely is difficult enough, but to do it without reliable internet is impossible.”

- Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (text)

“The experience of our educators and our students during COVID-19 further points to a larger shift that Kentucky must be prepared for and invest in now. The move to virtual classrooms was mirrored in many occupations, especially the use of telehealth, pointing to the growing importance of broadband. We used to think of broadband in terms of just business, but now we know it touches every part of our lives: the education of our kids, how we receive health care. This is the most important infrastructure of the future.”

“Even when COVID-19 is behind us, it’s clear that many companies are moving toward policies that will continue to encourage telework. And medical providers have expanded telehealth, making in-person visits and needing to commute to your doctor’s office a thing of the past. This is particularly important in our rural communities in Eastern and Western Kentucky. Telehealth will boost the well-being of our people, and its technological expansion will further strengthen our health care sector, which provides thousands of jobs across the commonwealth. That is why my budget provides $50 million to fund the last mile of broadband. This is the first time that state dollars have been used to invest in expanding broadband. This historic investment will help make sure every family that needs it has it.”

-Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (text)

"I am also extremely grateful for the $3 billion in assistance that we are receiving through the American Rescue Plan. I believe our first priority needs to be replenishing the unemployment trust fund to ensure that we can continue paying benefits and protecting businesses from tax increases. And then, because these are one time dollars, we should use funds on one-time expenses like infrastructure projects and paying down debt. I also want to make sure that we are maximizing federal dollars to serve as many people as possible. That includes capitalizing on funding for high speed, affordable broadband for every single person in Louisiana."

- Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (text)

“We have always been a national leader on health care. And the health care reform law enacted by the Legislature makes services like telehealth, which were a key part of our pandemic response, permanent. Telehealth visits – online or over the phone – were made possible by an emergency order we issued last spring. And patients and clinicians took full advantage. People who used to put off that clinician visit because they were busy flocked to service. Over a million visits in less than nine months. It was convenient and safe – and it kept people healthy and out of the emergency room. But it wasn’t permanent. Now it is, and we will all benefit from the flexibility and availability of this critical service.”

-Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (text)

"There are also challenges that are common to all economic sectors: broadband and childcare, in particular. The stories are all around us: a father of four in Owl’s Head who has to bring his daughters to a restaurant to connect to WiFi in order to get their homework done. A Blue Hill doctor struggling to view his patients’ charts during remote telehealth sessions. A high school student in Hope, Maine, who missed sixteen days of school because of dropped connections. And, yes, even a Governor of Maine who couldn’t connect to a public health media briefing in the State’s Capitol. It seems like everyone has a story about slow or no internet access in Maine. Sometimes it can seem like that’s just the way things are and that’s the way it will always be. But I don’t believe that.

Roads and bridges continue to demand our attention and are a major focus of bonding especially during times of historically low interest rates.
But high speed internet is as fundamental as electricity, heat, and water. It is the primary way of connecting with others in the 21st century. It is the modern equivalent of rural electrification in the 1930’s and the interstate highway system in the 1950’s. We need to have high speed internet throughout our state, and with willpower and perseverance we will get there.

With the buildout of the NECEC transmission line we will have the advantage of new fiber infrastructure from Jackman to Pownal and from Windsor to Wiscasset and ten million dollars in grants for middle mile and last mile connections for all host communities. Last year, my Administration asked for $15 million in bond monies to expand broadband — the first new investment in internet expansion in more than a decade — and you approved. This year, I will be asking for an additional $30 million for infrastructure and for internet that is affordable for Maine families, students, seniors, businesses and workers across the state. I am asking this on behalf of every child who could not learn remotely this year because they could not zoom into the classroom. I am asking for every entrepreneur who could not open the door of their new business because they could not get online. I am asking for the father or mother who wanted their child to Zoom with their grandparents but could not. I am asking for every person who is considering moving to Maine but wondering if they’ll be able to work remotely.

A software engineer named Ryan told a newspaper recently that he and his wife moved from Boston to Maine in July because in part, they found a place where they can work remotely. We know that if we build it, they will come. Reliable high-speed internet is one thing families need desperately."

- Maine Governor Janet Mills (text)

“COVID exposed deep inequities in our education system. Many students and educators in rural or low-income communities lack the technology access fundamental for remote learning. That's why my budget proposal next month will continue building upon the weighted funding formula.”

-Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (text)

“When we talk about infrastructure, we most often think about our transportation system, but equally important is access to high-speed broadband. We have made great strides in the past few years, and I appreciate the legislature's commitment to broadband expansion. However, 2020 exposed many digital gaps, highlighting the importance of ensuring high-speed internet in all areas of Missouri ... which is why this year, I am once again asking for a $5 million dollar investment to expand and improve broadband services across the state.”

“It goes without saying that COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we deliver health care. The demand for telehealth has increased significantly and will continue to be a major need going forward. This is why we invested over $5 million dollars last year to expand broadband for telehealth across the state, and why we are proposing over $4 million dollars to support telehealth and telemedicine for individuals with developmental disabilities.”

- Missouri Governor Mike Parson (text)

“...to cement North Carolina’s spot as best in the nation for business and industry, we have to solidify the state’s backbone. Its infrastructure — schools, water and sewer, roads, bridges, transit — and also its pathways for information. High speed internet is vital for education and telemedicine but also for every person, from small business owner and farmer to big corporation and hospital.

In Hoke County, Dr. Karen Smith began using telemedicine to care for patients with opioid addiction, and when the pandemic hit she realized it could help even more. She carefully planned to continue her in-person medical care, but many of her patients were hesitant to come in at the height of the pandemic, and a lot of them didn’t have internet access. So Dr. Smith extended her office’s wifi to the parking lot and offered tablets for patient use. This meant those with limited access to technology could still get the care they needed through telemedicine.

The pandemic and the resulting necessary expansion of technology have flung us a decade ahead. The future world where we work from home, see a doctor, and connect over screens is thrust on us right now. But if you don’t have the access, the screen, or the money to subscribe you’re left out and left behind. We have a plan and the money to stretch high-speed internet to our state’s farthest corners. And we should use them both to get this done.”

- North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (text)

“Finally, we must continue to invest in better community connectivity through broadband internet. It’s no secret that many Nebraskans still do not have access to broadband. Over 80,000 Nebraska households lack broadband speeds of at least 25/3. The pandemic revealed how impossible work from home or remote education can be for those on the wrong side of the digital divide. Over the last several months, we were able to use CARES Act money to begin connecting 17,600 households with broadband. Additional households are expected to receive broadband using existing resources over the next two years. Senator Friesen, Speaker Hilgers, and I are proposing that we invest $20 million in each of the next two years to help another 30,000 households get broadband connectivity. This will move Nebraska closer to bringing broadband coverage to every corner of the state.”

- Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (text)

“Business and education leaders worked to bridge the digital divide for our students by creating ConnectingKidsNV. In August, approximately 80 percent of Nevada’s students didn’t have the device or connectivity they needed to participate in distance learning. As of the start of this month, every student participating in online learning has at-home access to the internet and a computer to do their work.”

“The budget I unveiled yesterday includes $75 million for future capital improvement projects that will be used to launch the State Infrastructure Bank, so we can leverage outside capital to fund important infrastructure projects like rural broadband, renewable energy, and road improvements.”

- Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (text)

“The digital divide was real long before COVID hit our state. But it became even clearer as the pandemic took hold. In 2021, no child should be denied access to all the educational opportunities of the online world. An estimated 230,000-plus students -- almost entirely from disadvantaged households -- lacked either the laptops or internet accessibility, or both, for remote learning. So we got to work closing that digital divide, and, today, 95 percent of those students have the tools they need, and we’re close to getting the outstanding gap to zero.”

- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (text)

“The pandemic has reminded us that New Mexico cannot wait any longer to invest in reliable high-speed internet for all in our state. I call on the Legislature to commit at least half of their capital outlay allocations to new broadband investments, some $200 million. This is the most urgently needed infrastructure investment we can make as a state. And we must make it. Together we must put in place this essential building block and avow our unequivocal faith in New Mexico’s economic future.”

- New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (text)

“COVID showed us the limits of our health system, but it also fostered innovation. Telemedicine was invaluable in keeping people remote, while providing care. Public access was uneven and inequitable. At the recommendation of the Reimagine New York Commission, I'm introducing the most comprehensive telehealth bill in the nation to ensure accessibility to all New Yorkers.”

“We will also expand the infrastructure of tomorrow. The infrastructure of tomorrow is our broadband system. Today broadband discriminates by race and income. We have invested $500 million to successfully expand broadband access and 98% of the state now has access to broadband. But, New York will also lead the nation now in making broadband affordable, because accessibility is not enough if it's not affordable. And because without affordable broadband, people are not just disconnected, they are disenfranchised. Broadband must be available to everyone, everywhere. And in New York we will make sure it is.”

- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (text)

“In this age of massive data, electric vehicles, and increased remote working and learning over digital devices, it's more crucial than ever that we maintain a diverse power grid with reliable base load generation to meet our electricity demands at all times.”

“In fact, if you wanted to find heroes in our communities, it's very easy. All you have to do is look because they're basically everywhere. […] The crews from Dakota Carrier Network, Midco and other broadband providers making thousands of connections to ensure that high-speed service to schools and homes to support distance learning, earning North Dakota national recognition for our broadband connectivity.”

- North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum (text)

“Finally, as we have seen with the pandemic, broadband, access to the internet, is an essential service just like our electricity. Our kids need it to participate in class, our businesses need it to connect to customers, and our communities rely on it to provide services to their people. My budget invests over $100 million in broadband expansion statewide, with a focus on providing access to communities that have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic, and ensuring every single school across Oregon is connected to the internet. This could be a bridge that helps Oregon mend the urban rural divide. And the disparities in access aren’t just a problem here, but across the country. The Biden-Harris administration can help unite this unnecessary division, especially in the west, by providing federal funding for broadband expansion.”

- Oregon Governor Kate Brown (text)

“But my budget also make historic investments in our workforce and our infrastructure to help our economy come roaring back once we return to business as usual. That includes a multi-billion-dollar investment in our workforce and economic development systems, enough to fund recommendations from our Bipartisan Workforce Command Center’s report. And it includes a major investment in our infrastructure – not just our roads and bridges, but infrastructure projects ranging from broadband internet in rural communities to getting lead and asbestos out of our school buildings.”

- Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (text)

“Among other things, we planned and invested in building out our state’s broadband infrastructure, distributing 92,542 wi-fi hot spots so students without internet access could receive instruction at home.”

“This pandemic has demonstrated that broadband connectivity is a necessity for health care, education, and remote access to the workplace. I am proposing that $30 million be provided to the Office of Regulatory Staff to continue critical expansion of broadband through public and private matches for shovel-ready infrastructure projects.”

- South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (text)

“As I outlined in my Budget Address, I believe we must create an environment where families are not forced to choose between the modern economy on the one hand and life in their hometown on the other. That’s why I am proposing that we invest to finish connecting the state with broadband. Even the most remote communities across our state should be provided the tools they need to be connected. Thriving communities from border to border will yield much better results for our state and our families, rather than concentrated growth in just two cities. There are still 135,000 South Dakotans without high-speed broadband access that meets the needs of the 21st Century. A state investment, coupled with industry funding and federal grants, is enough to get the job done. Success would mean our rural communities would have the opportunity to grow, and families would have the chance to stay together.”

“My hope is that we can work together to get our state connected, so we can set up this generation and the next for success, no matter where they want to live.”

- South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (text)

“Whether it’s running a small business, accessing virtual learning or accessing health care via telemedicine, slow internet speeds have many in rural Tennessee left at a disadvantage. I have proposed record investments in broadband since becoming Governor, and I am grateful for the legislature’s support on this issue. But – I am ready for us to solve this issue once and for all. A significant, one-time investment, combined with significant private investment, will get broadband to just about every community in Tennessee, and tonight, that’s exactly what I’m proposing. To help us achieve our goal of every Tennessean having access to high speed broadband, my budget recommends an investment of 200 million dollars. One major reason broadband expansion is important is to improve educational outcomes in rural areas.”

- Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (text)

“We are also closing the digital divide for Texas students. The state partnered with school districts to provide internet connectivity and eLearning devices for schools and students. Investments like these are a victory for teachers, students, and parents as we provide our children with a quality education regardless of their zip code.”

“From medicine to education to business, broadband access is not a luxury—it is an essential tool that must be available for all Texans. That’s why I am making the expansion of broadband access an emergency item this session.”

“Texas prides itself on low regulations. But our response to the crisis revealed more regulations can be cut. For example, we suspended a number of regulations to help Texans navigate challenging times. That included measures like helping restaurants by allowing them to sell alcohol-to-go. And allowing Texans easier access to doctors through the use of telemedicine. Some of those ideas are worth keeping. That is why I am asking the Legislature make permanent some of the regulatory relief that I authorized. This will cut red tape and unleash the full might of the Texas economy.”

- Texas Governor Greg Abbott (text)

“By providing an $80 million tax cut targeted at senior citizens and Utah families, we can improve the quality of life for scores of Utahns, while simultaneously investing significant new funding for transportation, water, recreation and broadband infrastructure that will benefit every Utahn on and off the Wasatch Front for generations to come.”

- Utah Governor Spencer Cox (text)

“As a result of our efforts, we’ve secured our place as the safest, healthiest state in America. We’ve made smart investments with relief funds, like strengthening childcare and afterschool programs, developing housing that more families can afford and expanding broadband.”

“We can also strengthen every kid’s foundation with a stronger focus on literacy. So, we’ll ask districts to put plans in place that help us measure and improve in this important area of learning. And finally, I’ll ask the Legislature to consider how to use the lessons of remote learning to give school districts, students and families more educational choices, like the option of a foreign language or a computer coding class taught from a classroom in another part of the state.”

- Vermont Governor Phil Scott (text)

“We also need to take action on broadband. Broadband is as critical now as electricity was in the last century. Making sure more Virginians can get access to it has been a priority since I took office. And the pandemic has highlighted how urgent this is—for workers, for businesses, for students, for telehealth. For the past ten months, you have been fortunate if you have a job that can be done from home, and access to a fast Internet connection to make your meetings easier and your child’s virtual education possible. But if you have a job that can’t be done remotely, or you live an area where Internet access is out of reach, then you’ve had a very different experience during this pandemic. You’ve put on a mask and crossed your fingers when you go to work. You’ve driven your child to the public library parking lot so she can get a good enough Internet signal to do her school work. Make no mistake, this is about equity. In 2018, we estimated that 660,000 Virginians didn’t have access to broadband. Since then, we’ve cut that number by 20 percent with projects that connected more than 130,000 homes and businesses. And we are far from finished. My budget provides $50 million in each year to maintain our historic level of funding for broadband. We need to get it done.”

- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (text)

"Just so you'll know where I am, we made some really, really bold steps for broadband, did we not? West Virginia is deficit on broadband beyond belief. We need to do any and everything we can to blanket our state with broadband. It will make us better and better and better, and the opportunities just abound everywhere. It is the next highway construction project. We absolutely have fed dollars now pouring in, and we have real progress in broadband, but we got to do more. We got to do more. That's just all there is to it."

- West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (text)

“We are reminded now that in the fight for progress and prosperity we each share responsibility. And it begins with broadband. This pandemic has underscored—and in some ways, exacerbated—the digital divide that exists across our state. This pandemic has shown us firsthand that lack of access to high-speed internet continues to be a setback for kids, families, and businesses across our state. Students, educators, and schools making the shift to virtual learning were faced with a lack of access or unreliable connections that made it difficult to teach, engage, and learn. Folks trying to stay healthy and access basic healthcare services had trouble using telemedicine or other alternatives to visit with their doctor when they couldn’t go in-person. And businesses working to adapt and provide online ordering or payment options didn’t have the technological tools or lacked connectivity in their area. And in some communities, consumers didn’t have the internet connection to take advantage, even if they could have.”

“According to the FCC, more than 430,000 people who make up 25 percent of our state’s rural population lack access to high-speed internet. Our state ranks 36th in the country for accessibility in rural areas. Earlier this year, our Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation released its ‘Wisconsin Tomorrow’ report. It highlighted broadband as one of three priorities to begin our economic recovery saying this: ‘Fixing broadband in Wisconsin is not a moon shot; it’s not insurmountable. But it is critical to economic development and recovery and must happen now.’ So, tonight, I’m excited to declare 2021 the Year of Broadband Access.”

“I’m proud that my first biennial budget invested $54 million into broadband across our state—the largest state investment in broadband in our state’s history. Well, not to be outdone, we’re going to do it again in this budget—except this time we’re going to nearly quadruple it. My 2021-23 biennial budget will invest nearly $200 million over the biennium into broadband—that’s five times the amount invested in the 2013, 2015, and 2017 budgets combined. It’s 2021, folks—having access to high-speed internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Every Wisconsinite across our state should have access to reliable, high-speed internet. Period.”

- Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (text)

"The reformatted Wyoming Business Council had a busy year. With their work, Wyoming injected over $500 million directly into the state's economy. Here are three examples: The Energy Rebound Program that supported over 5,000 oil and gas jobs; The Connect Wyoming program brought broadband to over 12,000 Wyomingites; and, the Business Relief Programs, which provided hundreds of millions directly to Wyoming's main streets and small businesses."

"The Health Care Task Force that emerged from our pandemic response continues to investigate ways to reduce costs and improve access to care for our state's residents. Already, Wyoming has expanded the capacity of telehealth to reach isolated and high-risk individuals. This diverse group of stakeholders will continue to work towards solutions that ensure Wyoming residents will have access to affordable healthcare."

- Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon (text)