Utah currently leads the United States in Internet use and availability, according to The U.S. Department of Commerce.
Not only do 80 percent of Utah households currently have access to the Internet, the state is also working actively to make broadband Internet access available in difficult to reach rural areas. The tangible economic benefits of Internet availability is spurring Utah to continue increasing broadband access throughout the state.
The Utah Broadband Project is the official name of the project that seeks to expand reliable broadband to every citizen in Utah. The project is connected to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Public Service Commission and the Department of Technology Services.
“Other states with projects like this are done by third parties, or they might be done by a university or something, but why we decided to do this in this office is because we realized the importance of Internet access for businesses,” said Tara Thue, a project manager from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “We know without modern infrastructure, not only water and power, but broadband infrastructure, we won’t bring businesses that are valuable to this state.”
The Utah Broadband Project website has a map that shows where they’ve tracked broadband access as well as Internet speed throughout the state.
“By gathering data about broadband availability throughout the state, we’re hoping to target service to areas that currently don’t have any broadband access,” Thue said. “We’re finding areas that are currently completely under-serviced by broadband, and we’re working with providers to put broadband in those areas.”
While a majority of the state has access to high speed Internet, there are still areas that suffer from poor Internet connection. Thue said the community of Woodland Hills has felt the impact of poor broadband access.
“For this type of community, for some of us, it makes a really difficult situation,” said Chance Williams, the Internet Specialist appointed by Woodland Hills City Council. “As a software consultant, I actually lost one of the projects I was working on because we didn’t have the bandwidth for the type of work I was doing. It’s just crippling everyone who’s involved in any way with the Internet.”
Woodland Hills is a community just south of Spanish Fork nestled up to the mountains. According to Williams, Internet service providers have avoided installing broadband in Woodland Hills in the past because the community is miles away from cities that are more connected such as Provo or Spanish Fork.
Williams expressed gratitude for the Utah Broadband Project, saying that Woodland Hills is making progress toward broadband access.
“It’s a credit to this state that they have that going, because otherwise we weren’t getting anywhere,” Williams said.
While some communities continue to suffer from poor broadband access, the state of Utah continues to work on Internet expansion.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert shared his sentiments on Utah’s efforts to expand Internet availability.
“I am excited to support the Utah Broadband Project, which is important because it will provide a clear map to assess the unserved and underserved areas in the state,” Herbert said in a quote that appears on the Utah Broadband Project webstie. “This is yet another milestone in a series of milestones to strengthen economic development opportunities in Utah, not only in our rural areas, but across the entire state.”