On Saturday the 1st of October 2016 we will take part in the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (TPRC) panel ‘Rural Broadband Policies in a Cross-National Comparison’ organized by Bibi Reisdorf. TPRC is an annual conference on information policy that convenes researchers and policymakers from academia, industry, government, and nonprofit organisations. As our Access Denied study has also shown a number of highly technologized countries, such as the US, the UK, Canada and Australia, 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
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 moderated by Sharon Strover (University of Texas at Austin) and is comprised of four experts who have conducted extensive research into rural digital divides and rural broadband policies in the US (Bibi Reisdorf, Michigan State University), the UK (Anne-Marie Oostveen, University of Oxford), Canada (Catherine Middleton, Ryerson University), and Australia (Sora Park, University of Canberra). These experts span a range of disciplines, including communication, management, social informatics, and sociology.