TRENTON – It’s been a slow start for the state’s high-speed internet study.

More than six months after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law establishing a Broadband Access Study Commission, appointments still haven’t been made to the 19-member panel and its year-long work hasn’t begun.

The state Board of Public Utilities has started hiring outside help for the commission. The New Jersey Institute of Technology will provide mapping support, and the BPU voted Wednesday to start looking for quotes from consultants to help with research and writing the final report.

“Members of the commission are still in the process of being appointed,” said Joseph Fiordaliso, the BPU president. “So, when our first meeting occurs, it may be a little bit down the road, and that’s when the clock starts running for the year.”

The consultant will be paid using federal COVID recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan.

Fiordaliso said a study evaluating the impediments of access to broadband service and the benefits of options such as community broadband is important.

“If one good thing has come out of this pandemic, it’s the idea that it demonstrated very clearly that there are parts of New Jersey that don’t have accessibility,” Fiordaliso said.

“One would think we live in the New York/Philadelphia metropolitan area, most of us don’t even give it a second thought about broadband accessibility,” he said. “But there are parts of New Jersey where they don’t have it.

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“And that’s unacceptable, particularly when we saw and continue to see during the pandemic people working from home, children studying from home, and some at an extreme disadvantage because they don’t have access,” Fiordaliso said. “This is something that is vital to the education of our children and vital for those who still aren’t back in the office.”

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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