Presented at CENIC’s 2019 Annual Conference.
Skyler Ditchfield, Co-Founder and CEO, GeoLinks | Louis Fox, CEO and President, CENIC | Matt Rantanen, Director of Technology, Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association | Sunne Wright McPeak, CEO, California Emerging Technology Fund | Steven Huter, Director, Network Startup Resource Center, University of Oregon
A recent article in the New York Times titled, “Digital Divide Is Wider Than We Think, Study Says” (12/4/18), notes that, “Fast internet service is crucial to the modern economy, and closing the digital divide is seen as a step toward shrinking the persistent gaps in economic opportunity, educational achievement and health outcomes in America.” While the FCC concludes that broadband is not available to 24.7 million Americans, a recent study by Microsoft states that “162.8 million Americans do not use the internet at broadband speed” and that this “discrepancy is particularly stark in rural areas.”
Many projects that might address this broadband disparity have been unattractive to private sector providers, given the difficulty of generating a return on investment necessary for the capital expenditures for construction of necessary middle-mile infrastructure. And, while there is a tendency to see the digital divide as a rural issue, many urban areas show a similar lack of access to fast home Internet, though often for different reasons — lack of affordable broadband and/or lack of motivation for broadband adoption.
The picture is not entirely gloomy: There are many creative approaches to address issues of access, affordability, and adoption, often pooling sources of funds, integrating two (or more) broadband technologies, and through partnerships that involve public, government, and private sector partners. The panelists, all of whom are engaged in every aspect of broadband from public policy to project deployment, will highlight and discuss successful strategies to address the broadband digital divide and engage conference participants in a discussion about how to scale locally instantiated projects to reach across all of California (and beyond).