C Spire-led consortium pushes ahead with rural broadband access research
RIDGELAND, Miss., Oct. 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- A group of tech firms led by Mississippi-based C Spire are pushing ahead with efforts to bridge the "digital divide" through testing technology solutions, creating and building new business models and training individuals and communities in digital skills to help solve the rural broadband adoption problem.
The firms, which include Airspan Networks, C Spire, Microsoft, Nokia and Siklu, met recently in Mississippi to review their progress and chart a plan to share their eventual findings, conclusions and recommendations at a yet-to-be planned Washington, D.C. summit next year for broadband industry leaders and policy makers.
Formed earlier this year, the consortium has been working hard to deploy and test various fixed wireless technology solutions in rural areas of Mississippi, including TV white spaces, massive MIMO using 4G Band 41 LTE and C Spire's own 5G internet product, that could potentially be used in similar broadband-challenged rural areas across the nation.
Mississippi, with almost 28 percent of its residents lacking any broadband connectivity and less than 18 percent using broadband, is the primary testing ground of the group's work as nearly half of its 3 million residents live in rural areas. The state ranks 46th nationwide in broadband access and 47th in urban population.
C Spire is leading the effort as part of its broader Tech Movement to build a better future for the region through technolgy and education. "Improving broadband access and digital skills represent huge opportunities for rural areas. Every student, school and business should have the chance to reap the benefits from wider availability and adoption," said C Spire Technology Strategist Ivy Kelly.
"We know that delivering high capacity broadband services is challenging – not because of the technology, but the economics," said C Spire Chief Innovation Officer Craig Sparks. "We are working hard with our partners to develop new playbooks with ways to close the broadband adoption and affordability gap in rural communities across America."
The broadband "digital divide" between cities and rural parts of the country is substantial. According to a 2018 Federal Communications Commission1 report, over 19.4 million rural Americans still lacked basic broadband at the end of 2017 with profound negative social and economic impacts on the nation's rural communities.
Unfortunately, the problems are even more acute in states like Mississippi where rural residents have limited or no access to basic broadband. A 2017 Mississippi State University Center for Technology Outreach study2 found that the state's rural counties lose millions of dollars a year in deferred economic benefits due to lack of availability and slow internet speeds, a further indication that findings from the consortium research and testing could have a profound impact on the state's economy.
1 FCC Communications Marketplace Report, GN Docket No. 18-231,FCC 18-181, p.132 available at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-18-181A1.pdf
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