Washington, Massachusetts among most broadband-friendly states

The TechNet study looks at state policies, network speeds and the apps economy

The U.S. states of Washington, Massachusetts and Delaware have made the most progress in promoting broadband and in providing a broadband-friendly business climate, according to a new study by trade group TechNet.

Those three states lead the TechNet State Broadband Index, which rates states on broadband adoption, network quality and segments of the state's economy supporting broadband, according to the study, released Wednesday. Maryland and California rounded out the top five states.

Broadband is an "essential infrastructure" for TechNet members, said Rey Ramsey, the trade group's president and CEO.

The study intended to show "the important role of the states in determining our nation's broadband future," he said. "Policies actually matter. The efforts of government as well as the private sector working together make a difference."

The study points to a connection between an investment in broadband and economic growth, TechNet said.

While some states have broadband advantages, such as concentrated population centers, the study attempts to balance those out and rate states on which ones "maximized what they had," Ramsey said.

The study can also help state leaders improve their broadband rankings, said John Horrigan, a senior fellow at TechNet and co-author of the study.

"There are a lot of policymakers in states ... who want to do better," Ramsey said. "They want to attract more companies. If you don't have broadband infrastructure, you're not going to play in the 21st-century economy."

The study looked at broadband adoption in recent years as well as the pace of growth in adoption, Horrigan said. It also looked at network speeds, based on information from Akamai and the Fiber to the Home Council, and at the economic structure supporting broadband, including the percentage of jobs in the information and communication technology sectors and an estimate of the number of app developer jobs in each state.

The study's focus on app jobs was intended to look at growth in "an emerging sector" of the IT industry, Horrigan said.

Washington state's high ranking was driven by an economy closely connected to technology, with the corporate headquarters of Microsoft, Amazon and other companies, the study said. Several mobile app developers are also located in the state.

Massachusetts has a cluster of universities and tech companies in the Boston area, and has high network speeds, while Delaware's concentration of corporate headquarters helps drive network quality, the study said.

The states with the lowest broadband rankings were New Mexico, Louisiana, Hawaii, Alaska and Arkansas.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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