HomeTechnologyInternetCaswell: Broadband buildout is a critical next step in NH’s economic expansion

Caswell: Broadband buildout is a critical next step in NH’s economic expansion

One of the lessons we all learned during the pandemic was how crucial internet access became. People not only worked from home, but registered their cars, ordered take-out, watched first-run movies, visited their doctors and their children did homework, all online.

Many people have portrayed the provision of high-speed Internet access as a modern version of the electrification of America in the 1930s. That’s why the state’s Economic Recovery and Expansion Strategy (ERES) released in 2021 has as one of its five strategic goals: “Recognize the role of infrastructure in stimulating the economy”. Universal broadband access, for businesses and citizens alike, is vital to achieving this goal, and the state is moving fast.

On October 19, the governor and executive council approved a $50 million contract with the NH Electric Cooperative (to build out high-speed fiber broadband to more than 23,200 locations statewide. These are primarily rural locations that currently have low speeds or no have service). not at all.

How fast is high speed? For this program, we require the new service to be at least 100 Mbps upload and download. NHEC offers speeds up to 20 times the planned upgrades. The reason for this is simple. We are building this network for now and for the future, and these speeds meet the needs of most residential and commercial users.

Then the Ministry of Trade and Economic Affairs reviewing all the applications for this $50 million program, we discovered two things.

First, there are internet providers that want to provide this future-proof broadband service to the state. This was a competitive process, to get the most out of New Hampshire at the best price. This approach proved the potential for extensive broadband expansion in underserved and underserved areas. Second, New Hampshire’s competitive approach serves more locations than other states. By comparison, Vermont will spend $90 million to provide access to about 14,000 locations. Other states have different funding approaches, which will meet their needs. However, New Hampshire’s approach to using its funds for fast, streamlined construction is promising.

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To continue this success, BEA has opened a second round of funding, committing an additional $40 million to this initiative. We expect the state to receive more competitive bids and, as before, to directly fund our state’s broadband expansion. In addition, BEA will allocate tens of millions of dollars in local grants to complete expansion throughout the state. In addition, the state will release a digital equity plan in 2023 that identifies gaps – and possible solutions – in areas such as digital literacy, affordability and access to community services.

In addition to ensuring that every person, organization and company has access to broadband, BEA and the state are aggressive as we look beyond today. An all-wired state with broadband has incredible benefits for energy, healthcare, housing, education and more. That is why ERES has made it one of its goals. The state’s future businesses and workforce will need such connectivity, and this is especially true for the millennials – and increasingly Gen Z – who are making New Hampshire their home and becoming their workforce. However, this will only continue if the state remains committed to ensuring that everyone has fast and reliable internet access.

Taylor Caswell is a commissioner of the NH Department of Business and Economic Affairs.



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