Lowery: Arizona has opportunity to expand broadband internet everywhere

By Ilana Lowery | Common Sense Media

Arizona is home to the country’s most unserved and underserved community, according to Mike Conlow, director of network strategy at Cloudflare. The worst region, Cochise County, and other rural communities, like Sierra Vista and Greenlee, as well as Tribal lands, continue to be plagued by poor internet quality and limited access to low-priced broadband.

The widespread adoption of home internet in Arizona has been problematic. In Maricopa County, 93% of households have access to an internet service provider, but only 65% purchase an internet service subscription. That means more than 207,000 households in the state’s largest county do not have home internet, according to Connect Arizona.

Common Sense Media research estimates more than 335,500 Arizona students lack access to high-speed internet, and 220,500 are without devices. These are the Arizona students that FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has described as struggling with the “homework gap.” Without support, they lack consistent access to the connectivity and devices they need to participate fully in education.

These are big problems for Arizona. The internet is vital for families and Arizona’s economy. When students are unconnected, there is an estimated annual loss of $33 billion to the national GDP. 

Thankfully, Arizona has a historic opportunity to correct these problems. Through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Arizona now has access to federal funding to support broadband infrastructure build-out, digital literacy programs, and, for the first time, an affordability program for high-speed home internet access.

These federal investments will help to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, occupation, or income, has access to the benefits of broadband access. The IIJA has created programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program …

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