Priorities Season 4

For state CIOs, broadband an essential and pressing challenge

Wisconsin’s top technology official says the public has an “insatiable appetite” for high-speed internet. But through new programs led by state agencies and with financial backing from the federal government, he says his state — like many others — is keeping pace with that demand.

In the latest episode of StateScoop’s Priorities Podcast, Wisconsin CIO David Cagigal and North Carolina CIO Eric Boyette say they’re making progress on their broadband initiatives, but that ultimately they expect this work will never be done.

Both state IT officials say the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund Phase II Auction, which provides subsidies to internet service providers who build out their networks to underserved regions, has been instrumental in advancing connectivity in their states. Cagigal, who says Wisconsin is now wrapping up the fourth year in a five-year distribution of $570 million through CAF Phase II, considers the program a highly effective way to boost connectivity.

“Prove to us that you can connect, prove to us that it’s working for the citizens and then the federal dollars will flow to you,” Cagigal says.

Increasing connectivity is crucial, the CIOs say, across a variety of goals in state government, from supporting small businesses to improving educational opportunities.

“What does broadband bring? Everyone thinks of Facebook, ‘I can do more digital literacy things online,’ but that part of the telehealth, the ag industry and the economy piece is really what we’ve got to do a better job of educating [on].”

Cagigal says education reform is “at the top of the list” for broadband goals in his state.

Both CIOs also cite the importance of public safety in driving broadband connectivity. Both FirstNet, the nationwide public safety communications network built by AT&T, and next-generation 911, a suite of technologies that allow emergency call centers to pass around digital media like photos and video, each rely on resilient fiber backbones.

For those public safety technologies, Cagigal and Boyette say their work is steadily progressing. And, Cagigal adds, with increased sophistication in technologies like these comes new challenges — like cyberthreats.

“The cyberattacks become much more aggressive, we’re worried about our 911 centers,” Cagigal says. “They never had to deal with an attack before. They’re analog, very simple operation. Once you connect them to a digital network, they’re going to need firewalls, they’re going to need protection.”

On the podcast:

  • Eric Boyette, chief information officer, North Carolina
  • David Cagigal, chief information officer, Wisconsin
  • Colin Wood, managing editor, StateScoop

Things to listen for:

  • Cagigal says the Connect America Fund dispersions have gone very well in Wisconsin.
  • Cagigal says knowing where to roll out broadband is a challenge because the mapping is inaccurate.
  • Both CIOs say they have rolled out efforts to supplement the federal mapping data.
  • Boyette says North Carolina’s broadband office is a point of pride and a huge asset.
  • Boyette says next-generation 911 is slowly being rolled out in his state, with about 11 counties equipped with the new technology out of 100.
  • Boyette says that even with infrastructure as fundamental as broadband, cybersecurity is still a concern.

Produced in partnership with the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Priorities dives deep into each of the top 10 priorities of state CIOs outlined in NASCIO’s annual list

Listen to archived episodes of Priorities from Season 4 (2019)Season 3 (2018)Season 2 (2017) and Season 1 (2016). Catch all of StateScoop’s podcasts on SoundcloudApple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PlayStitcher or Alexa’s TuneIn.