Building broadband infrastructure

This study conducted by UMSI research investigator Steven Jackson examined the effect that widespread broadband availability may have on the social, economic and cultural lives in a community. The study explored the roles that existing community resources and networks play in efforts to organize, finance, and set up high-speed broadband infrastructures. It also analyzed the new forms of social interaction that are supported by high-speed broadband access.

Start date: 6/1/2010
End date: 8/31/2012

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We have become reinvested in broadband in the past few years after watching the U.S. drop from its position as a global leader in broadband access, speed and price. Even though new innovative models of broadband development are being created, we still continue to lack basic understanding of the difference that broadband makes in the social and economic lives of communities. Evaluations of BTOP, BIP, and Google Fiber efforts remain weak, and the opportunities for learning associated with the current broadband moment could be lost. This study addressed both the opportunity and the gap in understanding presented by current broadband development efforts.

This research compared broadband development processes and outcomes across three leading broadband initiatives in the United States: the federal government's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), and the experimental Google Fiber initiative. The investigation focused on BTOP and BIP awardees in Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio, as well as selected Google Fiber communities.

The findings from this project can help us to understand the practice of broadband development and its community impacts in many ways. By making the growing amount of project-related data publicly available through research, it will open up the possibilities of comparative analysis within the information policy, community informatics, and related research communities. In addition, the findings from the comparative analysis of selected BTOP, BIP, and Google Fiber grantees can help support and improve future broadband development efforts.


Advancing Media Rights and Access: Building Broadband Infrastructure: Mapping Process and Impacts of the BTOP and BIP Initiatives, Ford Foundation: $250,000


Established in 1936, the Ford Foundation is an independent, global organization committed to innovative leaders on the frontlines of social change. The Foundation’s goals are to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation and advance human achievement.