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Invisible Infrastructure Connecting Rural and Unserved Areas via Spectrum

Presented at CENIC’s 2019 Annual Conference.

SPEAKERS:

Melissa Slawson, General Counsel and VP of Government Affairs and Education, GeoLinks | Louis Fox, President and CEO, CENIC | Rachelle Chong, Attorney/Lobbyist, Law Office of Rachelle Chong | Luis Wong, CEO, K-12 High Speed Network

ABOUT:

Millions of Americans still lack access to high-speed broadband service, especially in rural areas. According to data collected by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), as of the end of 2016, more than 500,000 households were without access to internet service of at least 6 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload, the minimum threshold for high-speed service in California. This is due largely to the costs associated with building fiber networks to these unserved areas. Wireless services may provide cost-effective solutions and bring much-needed high-speed access to these communities and the anchor institutions that serve them. This panel will explore the role of spectrum-based wireless technologies (i.e. fixed wireless) in closing the digital divide; the benefits to various industry segments and success stories using this technology; and what spectrum policy changes are needed to promote this kind of connectivity at both the federal and state levels.

 

Strategies for Addressing the Broadband Digital Divide

Strategies for Addressing the Broadband Digital Divide

Presented at CENIC’s 2019 Annual Conference.

Featured Speakers:

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

About:

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).

Is 5G Worth All the Hype?

Industry experts weigh in on the global telecom debate

The telecom industry kicked 2019 off by continuing the highly publicized debate over the opportunities, or lack thereof, that 5G presents modern day society. The technology’s promise to deliver higher bandwidth, lower latency, reduced packet loss, and overall increased system capacity than its 4G and 3G predecessors, is still generating both high expectations and severe skepticism.

With the gradual emergence of autonomous vehicles, smart cities, and all things IoT, advocates and hopeful early adopters believe that 5G technology will support innovation and transform the world as we know it. Conversely, critics attest that the so called “next generation” is overly-hyped and still faces a magnitude of serious hurdles before it can prove revolutionary.

To weigh in on the debate, I asked a panel of diverse industry experts to comment on the following question:

What do you think of 5G, is it worth all the hype?

___________________

Catherine McNally

Internet Specialist, HighSpeedInternet.com

In 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that 92.3% of Americans have access to speeds of 25 Mbps or more—but more than 24 million Americans don’t have access to internet speeds that meet 25 Mbps. Because 5G nodes don’t necessarily require as much infrastructure as a cell tower, they can be used in areas lacking wireless coverage. This will extend wireless speeds of at least 10 Mbps (the FCC’s current definition of mobile LTE broadband) to rural areas lacking in Internet options. If done right, 5G will help level the current rural-urban divide when it comes to Internet speeds, so I think the hype is warranted.

James Graham

CEO and Co-Founder, Community Phone

@wittedhaddock@communityphone

[5G is] definitely not worth the hype for any end-user or individual human. Certain IoT or self-driving car applications are different. Notwithstanding all of the industry claims and promises for how 5G will fix all woes, the one piece that is never considered is how app developers consistently re-write apps to utilize all available bandwidth. So even should all the tenuous bandwidth promises of 5G [be real], app developers — if history is any guide — will stuff themselves with 3rd party frameworks and services that consume your newfound 5G connection. So, while one might be able to theoretically receive twice as much data per second, what matters way more is how your app is developed. Two years ago, websites became the size of DOOM. That’s only increasing.

Jim Poole

Vice President of Business Development, Equinix

The real value of 5G and the reason we’re seeing such heavy investments in building these networks is to help businesses and consumers unlock new, currently unattainable capabilities. 5G networks are expected to far surpass 4G networks in optimizing applications such as IoT, AI, next-generation high definition video and fixed wireless access. 5G’s extremely fast bandwidth and ultra-low latency makes mission-critical control possible, opening the door for new applications that demand absolute reliability, such as health care, energy or autonomous transportations.

Vassilis Seferidis

CEO, Zeetta Networks

@ZeettaNetworks

As a society we tend to over-hype technology. For the person-in-the-street 5G brings you little new functionality compared to a well-designed, uncongested 4G network. It will still let you watch Netflix. What 5G will also do is let you watch Netflix in high-definition, on a crowded train, moving at speed where everyone else on the train is also watching Netflix. Nothing new, but certainly a better experience.

Beyond the day-to-day changes, 5G is a network of networks and has the ability to bridge the digital divide by connecting the unconnected. If all you want to do is watch more box-sets 5G isn’t worth the hype. If you want to make the world a better place 5G may be the technology to help you do it.

Amy Smith

Technology Analyst, FitSmallBusiness.com

@FitSmallBiz

As giddy as I always get for new tech, I also remind myself that first-generation anything should be met with skepticism. The 5G jump promises faster download speeds, lower latency, and all-around better experiences with our smartphones; basically, it’s a bigger pipe for data transfer. However, coverage won’t be widespread initially, and depending on where you are, you might not be able to take full advantage of the network or that expensive new phone. Plus, I’d expect the data caps by wireless services to be prohibitive. The next generation in wireless phone tech is exciting, but I’ll wait a year before I personally invest in anything to make sure the networks are stable (and in my area), the bugs and glitches in new phones (and batteries) are worked out, and that there’s proof that 5G really will be faster than 4G LTE.

Zouhair Sebati

Lead Account Partner, IBM Global Business Services

While attracting a lot of hype about how it will disrupt everything — much like most emerging technologies—5G is different. The predicted transformational benefits are real, but it is still an uncharted landscape. Businesses need to prepare for plenty of first-generation challenges.

A recent report indicates that 60% of organizations surveyed plan to deploy 5G by 2020, with clear expectations for 5G use cases, but this demand is far ahead of what communication service providers (CSPs) can deliver. CSPs are initially focused on consumer broadband services. To businesses, 5G is more than just a better mobile network – it will improve the networks of companies in every industry, allowing them to take greater advantage of transformative technologies, such as AI, IoT, and machine-to-machine communication. From autonomous vehicles to smart cities and healthcare, companies expect 5G to improve how they collect, manage and use data, enabling better customer service, increased operational efficiency, and greater employee productivity. How well an organization plans for and implements 5G will determine the level of transformational impact on its business. This means preparing now to implement this next wave.

Skyler Ditchfield

Co-Founder and CEO, GeoLinks

@GeoLinks_USA | @SkylerJesseD

As it currently stands, 5G is not worth the hype at all. There are still countless issues with the technology, such as your hand or body blocking the signal, and deployment timeframes continue to be pushed further out. In reality, 4G provides us with enough speed and low latency to support all of today’s modern applications. Unless an area is overly saturated, such as urban markets, the general Public will virtually notice no difference between 4G and 5G. Moreover, 5G has a strong potential to hinder progress in connecting rural America. Why? Expansion dollars will likely be focused on building out new 5G infrastructure causing less and less capital being dedicated to closing the 4G gaps in rural and suburban America. I can tell you personally in my town of around 110k (Ventura) there are countless 4G dead spots. In fact, I even run into dead zones throughout Los Angeles and Beverly hills on Verizon. All in all, instead of focusing on the overly-hyped marketing of 5G, our energy and dollars should instead focus on densifying 4G networks and adopting a hybrid-network approach to closing the digital divide.

Chris Nicoll

Principal Analyst Wireless, ACG Research

@CANicoll

Despite promises and early launches by Verizon and T-Mobile in the US, and other operators around the world, the main differing features of 5G – namely very low latency in support of VR-type applications and remote robotic control and ‘network slicing’ to allow networks to be virtually separated into virtual private networks – will not come for at least another 2 to 4 years.

[Furthermore,] the much-touted use of ‘sub-6GHz’ and mmWave spectrum requires 2 to 5x the densification of today’s existing mobile networks. There are some technologies that can mitigate this densification, but as the FCC in the US is pursuing, this requires massive numbers of small cells, and current zoning rules are localized which slows down deployment. This argument also misses the high costs of running fiber to all of these small cells and the only solution is wireless backhaul which requires more spectrum. [So,] 5G will eventually live up to the hype, but for now, consumers should be patient and not fall for the shiny object dangling in front of them.

Michael Bancroft

Co-host, Globalive Media’s “Beyond Innovation”

There’s plenty of hype about incoming 5G networks, and they are definitely worth getting excited about – not only because it will deliver dramatically faster speeds to your smartphone (though that is a nice bonus!), but also because it will unleash the potential of the Internet-of-Things. 5G delivers gigabit speeds at very low latency, making it possible to connect millions of devices simultaneously and constantly, without interruption. Exciting new technologies, such as augmented reality experiences and autonomous vehicles, [will] become possible by laying the 5G groundwork. In the bigger picture, by hooking up IoT sensors to everything from traffic lights, to factory robots, to vending machines, we can gather incredibly granular data on nearly every interaction that occurs, and all of this data can be processed and analyzed by AI algorithms to identify ways to make services vastly more efficient and cost-effective.

However, where the 5G hype gets a little outlandish is in how quickly we’ll see the improved capabilities of 5G come to market. It will take some time to scale these networks and develop the IoT applications that will run on them, and that’s something consumers need to keep in mind.

So as articulated in the above comments, the 5G debate continues with a split verdict. Now, what do you think of 5G, is it worth all the hype?

What are the Best Rural Internet Options?

The Pros and Cons of Different Rural Internet Options

It is reported that more than 24 million Americans don’t have access to broadband Internet. According to a study conducted by Microsoft in 2018, 162.8 million people “do not use the Internet at broadband speeds.” Why? Whether it be due to inflated costs, poor availability, slow deployment, terrestrial restraints, misguided land and airwave regulation, or all the above, communities across the country, predominantly in rural America, lack adequate broadband infrastructure. The inequalities in finances, education, and social status, encountered by those without access to the Internet, versus those who do, has been coined the U.S. Digital Divide.

According to GeoLinks’ Co-Founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield, there are “Five Crucial Steps Needed To Close The U.S. Digital Divide”. The final, and arguably most imperative item listed, is the need for America to adopt a technology-agnostic hybrid approach. While technologies such as 5G and Fiber were perhaps 2018’s most prominent buzzwords, Fixed Wireless, DSL, Satellite, and Cable, all play an equally vital role in closing the divide.

So, what technologies are available in rural America? Here are the pros and cons of various Rural Internet options:

Pros and Cons of Internet Options

Fixed Wireless Broadband

Fixed wireless provides high-speed broadband Internet access to a single location via radio waves. While capable of servicing both suburban and urban communities, Fixed Wireless Internet is most widely known for its ability to quickly reach and connect rural America.

Pros of Fixed Wireless:

  • Quick to deploy – Fixed Wireless networks can be deployed in a fraction of the time of competing wired technologies.
  • Cost effective – by avoiding costly trenching, fixed wireless networks are far less expensive to build and have a lower impact on the environment.
  • Widely available – because it uses radio waves, fixed wireless networks can reach areas “off the grid”, such as rural America.

Cons of Fixed Wireless:

  • Line of Sight (LOS) – because circuits require direct LOS, trees or large buildings in the connection path can cause signal interference.
  • Bandwidth can be more expensive than DSL, Cable, and some Satellite providers.

dsl-cable geolinks - rural internet

DSL Broadband 

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) broadband is a wireline technology that transmits data over traditional copper telephone lines already installed to homes and businesses. Because it operates on pre-existing phone lines, when infrastructure is present, DSL can be installed quickly.

Pros of DSL:

  • Accessible – because DSL runs through phone lines, it is more widely available nationwide. (According to broadbandnow.com, DSL has 90% coverage nationwide.)
  • It’s relatively inexpensive – the cost to install and maintain is less than many other broadband technologies, such as Fiber.

Cons of DSL:

  • Slow speeds – DSL speeds are generally between 128 Kbps – 3 Mbps.
  • Inconsistent network quality – because circuit quality relies heavily on the distance from an ISP’s central hub, a major problem for many rural areas, speeds and network reliability are inconsistent.

Satellite Internet Vs. Fixed Wireless - GeoLinks

Satellite Internet

Satellite Internet beams data from your provider to a satellite in space, and then back to a dish at a user’s home or business. Historically, the technology has been primarily used to connect rural areas that don’t have access to wired services.

Pros of Satellite Internet:

  • Expansive availability – because it transmits to a satellite in space, it’s available virtually anywhere on earth.
  • Decent speeds – delivering speeds up to 100 Mbps, Satellite is faster than DSL.

Cons of Satellite Internet:

  • Latency issues – Satellite has inherent latency issues – this is especially problematic with video conferencing and VoIP applications.
  • Unreliable – circuit quality is susceptible to moisture (weather) and objects, such as trees and vegetation.
  • High cost – Satellite Internet is one of the most expensive broadband technologies on the market.

cable geolinks - rural internet

Cable Broadband

Cable Broadband utilizes a modem to provide access to the Internet through the same coaxial cables that deliver pictures and sound to a user’s television set. Mainly used to service residential customers, cable networks are considered shared circuits.

Pros of Cable Broadband:

  • Easy and quick to install – because it uses existing infrastructure, it has the potential to be immediately available.
  • Capacity to be substantially faster than other types of broadband connections such as satellite and DSL.

Cons of Cable Broadband:

  • Unreliable connection – Cable connections are shared with nearby users causing performance issues, such as varying speeds, during peak usage times.
  • Rural limitations – due to the lack of infrastructure extending outside of urban communities, cable is often not available.

  cellular-tower-geolinks - rural internet

Cellular Mobile Broadband

Mobile broadband delivers Internet over a mobile network – the same networks utilized by your smartphone. Mobile broadband can be accessed via portable wireless hotspots and wireless modems from anywhere that has a cellular connection.

Pros of Mobile Broadband:

  • Easy access – assuming there is reception in the area, it has the potential to be immediately available.
  • Quick and easy install – the ‘plug and play feature’ of this technology eliminates the need for physical cables, phone lines, or an electricity source.

Cons of Mobile Broadband:

  • Inconsistent coverage – If you live in a remote area, you may not get cellular reception, preventing access altogether.
  • Unreliable performance – Average mobiles speeds fall around 3 Mbps and fluctuate depending on location and the number of people connected to the network.
  • Capped data usage – To prevent network saturation, mobile broadband plans typically come with a data cap– go over and bills can get quite expensive.

flexible fiberoptic - geolinks

Fiber Broadband

Fiber broadband provides Internet access by converting electrical signals carrying data to light and sends the light through transparent glass fibers. It is one of, if not the most requested broadband technology on the market.

Pros of Fiber Broadband:

  • Speed – Fiber is capable of delivering multi-gig speeds making it one of the fastest broadband options on the market alongside fixed wireless.
  • Scalable and flexible bandwidth – once installed, bandwidth can be increased or decreased almost on-demand.

Cons of Fiber Broadband:

  • Not available everywhere – Fiber is currently available in only 25% of the country.
  • Expensive and slow to deploy – fiber optic cable is extremely costly to deploy and requires trenching (which is often stalled by lengthy permitting processes.)

While there are advantages and disadvantages to each Rural Internet option, when used together, these technologies can create a ubiquitous solution capable of delivering multi-gigabit bandwidth to all communities across the country. If the U.S. can collectively adapt to building out technology-agnostic hybrid networks, we can one day close the digital divide.

Want to see if GeoLinks’ Rural Internet Option, ClearFiber™, is available in your community?

 

 

 

GeoLinks Named One of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur 360™ List

GeoLinks Named One of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur 360™ List

Press Release distributed on Businesswire.com 

Dec. 19, 2018 – Camarillo, California – GeoLinks has been recognized as one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur magazine’s Entrepreneur 360™ List, a premier study delivering the most comprehensive analysis of private companies in America. Based on this study forged by Entrepreneur, GeoLinks is recognized as a well-rounded company that has mastered a balance of impact, innovation, growth leadership, and value.

GeoLinks, an award-winning telecommunications company, was founded with a mission to close the U.S. Digital Divide. Nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions, GeoLinks’ flagship product, ClearFiber™, delivers cost effective symmetrical Internet access to anchor institutions and businesses across the state of California and beyond. Created by GeoLinks Co-Founders Skyler Ditchfield and Ryan Hauf, ClearFiber™ is a hybrid fixed wireless network that utilizes renewable energy to generate telecom-grade broadband. By building state-of-the-art solar and wind powered telecommunications facilities, GeoLinks is able to build off the grid in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of fiber. With typical permitting and infrastructure boundaries eliminated, ClearFiber™ is an innovative, green, and economical way to connect both urban markets and rural communities alike.

“Our annual evaluation of vetted data offers a 360-degree analysis of top privately-held companies across a multitude of industries,” explains Jason Feifer, editor in chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. “They are deemed successful not only by revenue numbers, but by how well-rounded they are. The companies that make the list have pushed boundaries with their innovative ideas, fostered strong company cultures, impacted their communities for the better, and increased their brand awareness.”

“I speak on behalf of the entire GeoLinks’ team when I say we are thrilled to be recognized on such an esteemed list,” said GeoLinks’ Co-Founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield. “From helping to close the U.S. digital divide, to deploying wildfire detection, prevention, and situational awareness systems, to offering pro-bono circuits to Red Cross shelters during times of disaster, to creating an exceptional company culture ,  everything GeoLinks sets out to do is ultimately aimed at making both our community and the world a better place. Yes, we are a business, so we must earn capital, but the way I see it, the more we grow, the more resources we have to help and give back. I am humbled and honored that Entrepreneur recognizes GeoLinks as a well-rounded, innovative company that truly is making an impact.”

Honorees were identified based on the results from a comprehensive study of independently owned companies, using a proprietary algorithm and other advanced analytics. The algorithm was built on a balanced scorecard designed to measure five metrics reflecting major pillars of entrepreneurship—innovation, growth, leadership, impact, and business valuation.

To learn more about GeoLinks, visit GeoLinks.com

For additional details on the E360 List and the companies recognized, visit: entrepreneur.com/360

Visit GeoLinks’ Entrepreneur.com profile at: www.entrepreneur.com/company/geolinks

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About GeoLinks

Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is a leading telecommunications company and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. Ranked first in category on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in both 2017 and 2018, GeoLinks delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Digital Voice, SD-WANCloud On-ramping, Layer 2 Transport, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.

Recognized as a thought-leader in closing the digital divide, GeoLinks proudly sits on an array of national boards, coalitions, and working groups including the Schools, Healthcare & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition’s Board of Directors, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), the Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast (BCPC), and the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee’s (BDAC) Streamlining Federal Siting Working Group, and Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group.

About Entrepreneur Media Inc.

For 41 years, Entrepreneur Media Inc. has been serving the entrepreneurial community by providing comprehensive coverage of business and personal success through original content and events. Entrepreneur magazine, Entrepreneur.com, GreenEntrepreneur.com and publishing imprint Entrepreneur Press provide solutions, information, inspiration and education read by millions of entrepreneurs and small business owners worldwide.

To learn more, visit entrepreneur.com.

Follow us on Twitter or Instagram at @Entrepreneur and like us on Facebook at facebook.com/entmagazine.

 

The future has arrived; it’s Smart, and we’re not ready for it. Here’s why.

Smart City Technology- Lexie Smith - GeoLinks

Read the original article on Medium.com

From Washington D.C., to the coast of California, “Smart City” is, and was, perhaps 2018’s most prominent buzzword, aside from “5G”, circulating nearly all tech, economic, and broadband related conferences and forums. While the exact definition of what really is a “Smart City” varies by person and party, the concept itself is based on the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the Internet of things or (IoT), to optimize city-wide operations, services, and ultimately connect to citizens.

While some of the general public still think of this concept as far off, the reality is that “Smart Cities” have already began materializing across the country. Thus, this glorified digital future is here, and guess what America, we’re not ready.

Why Not?

Well, it’s simple really. Cities and its citizens can have all the ICT or IoT devices they want, but in order to make a city smart, these systems and gadgets have to physically work. That’s where connectivity comes into play. To fuel a Smart City, you need to have broadband Internet access with enough bandwidth to support electronic data collection and transfers. According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, upwards of 24 million Americans still lack access to high speed broadband. Furthermore, the report states that approximately 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans living on Tribal lands still lack mobile LTE broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps. Finally, only 88% of American schools were reported to meet the FCC’s short-term connectivity goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 users, and only 22% of school districts met its long-term connectivity goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 users.

On December 4th, the New York Times released an article titled, “Digital Divide Is Wider Than We Think, Study Says” that refuted the FCC’s published report. Based on a study conducted by Microsoft, the article summarizes that researchers concluded “162.8 million people do not use the internet at broadband speeds… In Ferry County, for example, Microsoft estimates that only 2 percent of people use broadband service, versus the 100 percent the federal government says have access to the service.”

So, regardless of which multi-million statistic we conclude is more legitimate, while many metro areas may have the bandwidth needed to at least partially move forward into the next digital revolution, there are still millions of Americans who would, as it stands, be left behind. This reality, coined the digital divide, is the ultimate Smart City roadblock.

Why being hyper fiber-minded is our fatal flaw:

States and communities across the country advocate that pervasive fiber network expansion is the solution to closing the divide. And yes, fiber networks can be great. The reality is, however, that building out fiber infrastructure to every location in America is time-consuming, tedious, and prohibitively expensive. Therefore, deploying fiber does not make economic sense in many rural and urban areas of the country. The Google Fiber project serves as a prime example of this.

To summarize, Google officially launched its Google Fiber project in 2010 with more than 1,100 cities applying to be the “First Fiber City.” By 2011, Google announced it selected Kansas City, Kansas as its target pilot. Fast-forward to 2014, and Google missed its projected city-wide connection deadline in Kansas claiming delays. By 2016, Google publicly commented that all-fiber build outs are proving infeasible due to costs and varying restrictive topologies, consequently filing with the FCC to begin testing wireless broadband internet in 24 cities. Within a few months, they officially acquired a wireless broadband provider and formally announced fixed wireless as part of their Google Fiber network moving forward.

All in all, this case study demonstrates first-hand that to actually close the U.S. digital divide our country must adapt a technology-agnostic mind-set and implement a hybrid-network approach that utilizes whatever technology or technologies makes the most sense for a particular region. Technologies like Fixed Wireless, TV Whitespace, 4G, and Fixed 5G, all have their place, alongside Fiber, in closing the divide. Unfortunately, until those in positions of influence are able to open their minds to these alternative methods, America will remain unconnected.

Who are people in positions of influence?

Luckily, our current FCC administration seems at least semi-understanding that fiber isn’t a “one-size fits all solution”; demonstrated in the recent distribution of funding to WISPs in the CAF II Auction. However, many state and local governments remain less progressive. At a recent California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) meeting in Sacramento, for example, a large majority of key broadband stakeholders and municipalities advocated that the California Department of Transportation’s (CALTRANS) future infrastructure plans should be wholly fiber-based to support the future of Smart Cities and Autonomous Cars. Whether it be from a lack of education, poor past experiences, or simply riding the buzzword bandwagon, until government organizations can push past common misconceptions that fiber is the only answer, community businesses and residents will be left in the divide.

So, what’s the “Smart” thing to do now?

For those cities in America already connected with reliable multi-gig Internet, go ahead, smart things up! Just keep in mind, to remain a Smart City, even fiber-rich metros will eventually need to extend current network infrastructure to new end points such as light poles, unconnected buildings, and future city expansions.

Ultimately, if we want to collectively prepare for this new revolution, we need to first focus on closing the digital divide. First comes broadband, then comes innovation, then comes the utopian idea of not only Smart Cities, but a smart country.

Smart City - Lexie Smith - GeoLinks

Related Suggested Articles:

Five Crucial Steps Needed To Close The U.S. Digital Divide

Grow Food, Grow Jobs: How Broadband Can Boost Farming in California’s Central Valley

Digital Divide Is Wider Than We Think, Study Says

How Community Anchor Institutions Can Help Close the Digital Divide

Rural service is key to bridging the digital divide

How Community Anchor Institutions Can Help Close the Digital Divide

How Community Anchor Institutions Can Help Close the Digital Divide - GeoLinks

Community Anchor Institutions play a pivotal role in closing both the California and U.S. Digital Divide. So, what are both the government and key broadband stakeholders doing to ensure they get connected? Let’s explore.

While the United States has clearly and rapidly advanced technologically over the years, the fact remains that the country still remains in a digital divide. The digital divide, defined as the economic, educational, and social inequalities between those who have computers and online access and those who do not, has left a large portion of U.S. citizens, predominantly in rural America, at an extreme disadvantage.

One of the primary ways this gap can be resolved is to ensure adequate broadband Internet access is deployed to all communities – rural, urban, and suburban. From a business stand point, however, the majority of today’s major carriers find that building out networks to residents and businesses in rural areas with low population densities does not often provide a healthy Return on Investment (ROI). Therefore, if both homes and businesses can’t be immediately serviced, connected anchor institutions become a critical community resource. So, what is a community anchor institution?

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), community anchor institutions are, “schools, libraries, medical and healthcare providers, public safety entities, community colleges, and other institutions of higher education, and other community support organizations and agencies that provide outreach, access, equipment, and support services to facilitate greater use of broadband service by vulnerable populations, including low-income, the unemployed, and the aged.”

Fortunately, over the past few decades a variety of federal and state programs have formed aiming to provide the funding needed to connect community anchor institutions across the country.

E-Rate Program – 1996 Telecommunications Act

As part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Congress authorized the E-Rate program. This program specifically aims to connect public and non-profit K-12 schools, in addition to public and private libraries, to advanced telecommunication networks. Funding for the program is provided by the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC), which collects fees on national telecommunications services. USAC provides schools and libraries with up to 90% of funding for advanced telecommunications services.

E-Rate Program – 1996 Telecommunications Act - Geolinks

While the E-Rate program has undoubtedly made strides towards closing the digital divide nationally, we still have a long way to go. The Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) has identified that 39% of rural Americans and 41% of tribal lands still lack basic broadband Internet services. SHLB has also identified that:

  • 42% of schools do not meet the minimum requirement set by the FCC for broadband services.
  • 41% of libraries have a broadband connection of 10Mbps or less, which is lower than the FCC’s recommended 100Mbps for libraries.
  • 88% of rural area healthcare providers have a broadband connection of less than 50Mbps.

The majority of these statistics stem from unconnected anchor institutions located in rural America. In addition to the efforts taking place federally, programs have also been developed at a state level. California, for example, has programs in place to aid in connecting community anchor institutions.

California Teleconnect Fund

The California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) was created by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in 1996 to reaffirm its commitment to universal broadband services with a focus on community anchor institutions. The program provides discounts on voice (25%) and broadband services (50%) for eligible organizations. These organizations include public schools, private schools, libraries, community based organizations, hospital and health clinics, California Community Colleges, and California Telehealth Network.

California Emerging Technology Fund

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) was created in 2005 to help “provide leadership statewide to close the digital divide by accelerating the deployment and adoption of broadband to unserved and underserved communities and populations.”

Established as a non-profit corporation pursuant to orders from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), CETF has access to a total of $60 million in funding to support deploying broadband access across California, particularly in underserved communities. The CPUC also directed that at least $5 million of these funds should be used for telemedicine projects.

Effective Use of Capital

With the presence of funds being allocated towards connecting community anchor institutions across the state of California, it is critical to evaluate how the capital can be used in the most effective and efficient manner. California has a diverse range of topologies with a variety of unique and differing challenges. Therefore, in order to successfully connect anchor institutions state-wide, it’s imperative to deploy hybrid networks.

A hybrid network utilizes a variety of technologies such as fiber, fixed wireless, and fixed 5G. While there are pros and cons to each delivery method, when used together, they have the ability to create a complete solution that can deliver multi-gigabit bandwidth to anchors in both urban, suburban andultra-rural communities.

GeoLinks – Bridging the Digital Divide

GeoLinks was founded in 2011 with the mission of helping close the U.S. digital divide. In the past few years, the Company has further focused its efforts on connecting underserved and unserved anchors to the Internet. Working closely with regional broadband consortiums, organizations like CETF, and non-profits such as CENIC, GeoLinks has connected dozens of California K-12 schools and libraries.

Currently, the telecom is completing network construction that promises to scale a rural hospital in Kern River Valley’s bandwidth from 12Mgps to 1Gbps and fully convert its 170 POTs lines into Hosted VoIP lines. The redundant one gigabit speeds plan to benefit the entire community as GeoLinks will offer its services to other local businesses in partnership with the larger Kern River Valley Broadband Project. This case study showcases just how important community anchor institutions become in closing the divide.

Ultimately, deploying broadband networks to anchor institutions is a cost-efficient and vitally important investment in our nation’s future. Several studies show that building high-capacity broadband to community anchor institutions has a multiplier effect that generates tremendous economic growth for the community and the nation. That being said, while connecting our anchors is imperative, this alone won’t close the digital divide.

To learn more, read our recent article published in Forbes about the “Five Crucial Steps Needed To Close The U.S. Digital Divide”.

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks Awarded $87.8M to Expand Rural Internet in California and Nevada

CAMARILLO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–On Tuesday, August 28th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially released the results of its Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) auction, allocating $1.488 Billion to close the United States’ Digital Divide. Innovative award winning telecom, GeoLinks, headquartered in Camarillo, California, received a total of $87.8M to expand rural internet in California and Nevada, making it the largest auction winner in the state of California, and 5th largest winner in the nation overall. Ousting big telcos such as Verizon, Frontier, and AT&T, this is the first time the largest winner of CAF in California has been an independent operator and not an incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC).

“GeoLinks’ founding mission is to close the U.S. Digital Divide,” said GeoLinks Co-Founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield. “With this promise of capital from the FCC, GeoLinks will be able to further expand our network into rural areas of both California and Nevada, ultimately providing more than 11,000 rural locations with Internet at 100 megabits per second. We are excited that this new infrastructure will also reduce the cost of bringing high speed broadband access to anchor institutions such as Schools, Libraries, Hospitals, and Community Colleges. You can expect to see GeoLinks fully close the digital divide in California in these areas in the next 2-3 years with the help of our corporate partner the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC). From the beginning it was expected to see the incumbent providers take home big portions of the total fund. However, I am absolutely thrilled that our company, a mid-sized ISP with true rural beginnings, was able to secure the largest grant in CA and be in the top 5 nationally. Not only does this secure a bright future for the rural communities we will service, but it also allows our company to have a secure future and bring more jobs into our local economy.”

As stated by Chairman Ajit Pai in the FCC’s formal release, the successful conclusion of this first-of-its kind auction is great news for the residents of these rural communities, who will finally be able to share in the 21st-century digital opportunities that broadband provides. By tapping the mechanisms of the marketplace, the CAF II auction served as the most appropriate and cost-effective way to allocate funding for broadband in these unserved communities, bringing the highest-quality broadband services to the most consumers at the lowest cost to the ratepayer.

“As part of its efforts to promote ubiquitous broadband access for all Americans, the FCC created the CAF II auction to enable Internet service providers to build and maintain infrastructure in unserved areas throughout the US,” commented GeoLinks’ General Counsel and VP of Government Affairs and Education Melissa Slawson. “I am elated to see that a capable company of our size was granted substantial funding to further propel our mission connect rural California, Nevada, and beyond.”

More information is available at https://www.fcc.gov/auction/903. A map of winning bids is available at https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/caf2-auction903-results/

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact Lexie Olson at [email protected].

GeoLinks

Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is the Fastest Growing Telecom in California and a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally awarded for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. Ranked in both 2017 and 2018 as one of Inc. Magazine’s Fastest Growing Companies in America on the Inc. 5000, GeoLinks delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Digital Voice, SD-WAN, Cloud On-ramping, Layer 2 Transport, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.

GeoLinks’ accelerated success is largely due to its flagship product, ClearFiber™, which offers dedicated business-class Internet with unlimited bandwidth, true network redundancy, and guaranteed speeds reaching up to 10 Gbps. Named “Most Disruptive Technology” in the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards, GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network is backed by a carrier-grade Service Level Agreement boasting 99.999% uptime and 24/7 in-house customer support. With an average installation period of 4 to 7 days, GeoLinks is proud to offer the most resilient and scalable fixed wireless network on the market.

Recognized as a thought-leader in closing the digital divide, GeoLinks proudly sits on an array of national boards, coalitions, and working groups including the Schools, Healthcare & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), the Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast (BCPC), and the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee’s (BDAC) Streamlining Federal Siting Working Group.

More about Connect America Fund Phase II Auction:

A total of 103 providers ultimately won support in the CAF II auction to expand broadband across 45 states. The funding, which will be distributed over the next 10 years, will connect 53% of all rural homes and businesses with broadband download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second. 19% will have gigabit service available. And 711,389 locations—all but 0.25%—will have at least 25 Mbps service available.

Contacts

GeoLinks
Lexie Olson, [email protected]

Advantages and Disadvantages of Broadband Technologies for Rural America – Infographic

Advantages and Disadvantages of Broadband Technologies for Rural America

Infographic by GeoLinks

 

BroadbandTechnologiesforRuralAmerica_GeoLinks

Five Crucial Steps Needed To Close The U.S. Digital Divide

Five Crucial Steps Needed To Close The U.S. Digital Divide

POST WRITTEN BY Skyler Ditchfield

CEO of GeoLinks, the Fastest Growing WISP in America named 2018 “Most Disruptive Technology” for its ClearFiber™ Network.

Shutterstock

If you were to google “how to close the digital divide,” you would not come up empty-handed. As a quick precursor, for those of you who may be unfamiliar, the digital divide refers to the inequalities in finances, education and social status faced by those without computers and access to the internet versus those who do. Because having equal access to digital technology is at the core of the divide, broadband availability, or the lack thereof, has become a highly publicized and debated topic between politicians and telecommunications companies (telcos) alike. Nevertheless, the divide still remains and arguably will continue to remain unless the following five steps are taken.

Step 1: Redirect Federal Funding Distribution

The federal government has allocated and continues to allocate ample funding toward closing the digital divide. Consequently, over the past 20 years, we’ve been able to raise broadband standards considerably, at least in urban and suburban markets. Unfortunately, however, the majority of these funds are awarded to major telcos and incumbent providers, and without a guaranteed long-term revenue case in rural America, they have minimal incentive to invest in new infrastructure or to improve current infrastructure. While this may make sense for their personal bottom lines, it does not benefit the American public. So, if large telcos can’t or won’t service rural America, who will?

First, if you have an option to buy from a small local provider, do so — you will consequently be supporting your local economy. However, the problem with totally relying on the little guys is that they are, in fact, the little guys, and often don’t have access to or the power to access the spectrum of state-of-the-art equipment or fiber assets that enable other providers to offer competitive, cost-effective and high-bandwidth solutions.

Another option is the middle road between mom-and-pop and the incumbent providers — the mid-sized internet service provider. As it currently stands, mid-sized ISPs do not have the financial resources of big telcos to build out low-cost products with long return on investment, thus making them less competitive for consumers. However, if granted adequate funding to build out infrastructure, these mid-sized telcos have the opportunity to give the mega-ISPs true competition, ultimately keeping the market honest, fair and favored toward the public’s best interest.

Step 2: Open The Airwaves, Fairly 

As it currently stands, today’s major cellular companies hold the vast majority of wireless spectrum allotted by the FCC to resolve the digital divide. These services, while important, do not currently deliver the entire bandwidth necessary to meet the needs of all unconnected Americans. However, the United States still has ample wireless spectrum available. If the FCC and Capitol Hill can appropriate these assets to companies that truly support the public’s best interest, and said companies utilize and deploy intelligently, the utopian idea of one day delivering one-gigabit speeds to every home in America is possible. 

Step 3: Implement A True Accountability Structure

On February 12, 2018, the White House released the Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America. The outline, which acknowledges the horrific state of the nation’s current infrastructure, demonstrates the new administration’s framework, meant to build a better future for all Americans. To its credit, there is a handful of positive action items presented in the outline. From empowering individual state decision-making, to establishing true accountability structures, to expediting and streamlining overall permitting and federal agency processes, at its core, the outline perceivably serves in the general best interest of the American public.

However, it can also be argued that there are inherent and massive flaws in the outline that will ultimately prevent these goals from reaching fruition. For example, past the inadequate division of funding, there is not a clear timeline of when all legislation changes must take effect. Therefore, even though once these changes are enacted there is a 24-month timeline, there isn’t a clear delineation of an official launch date. To paint an extreme example, this outline could have us all sitting here in five or 10 years still spewing on initiatives that could be and could make a better future. Thus, the administration needs to follow up its outline with immediate deadlines in order to formalize proposed accountability structures.

Step 4: Expedite The Use Of Federal Lands

As touched upon above, the idea of expediting processes has been proposed. However, even if we could ensure grant winners would build out as planned, the fact remains that 28% of the U.S. is federally owned, and many of these sites are in areas we need to get through or use for broadcast areas. It’s imperative we support operators’ build times by expediting permitting the use of federal lands sooner than later, and preferably now.

Step 5: Adopt A Technology-Agnostic Hybrid Approach 

While states and communities across the country continue to request fiber optic networks, the reality is that building out fiber infrastructure to every location in America is both cost- and time-prohibitive. Therefore, fiber is not the complete solution if we’re aiming to close the divide in a timely manner. The solution, rather, lies in adapting and building out technology-agnostic hybrid networks. From fiber, to fixed wireless, to 4G and 5G LTE, all of these technologies have their time and place in closing the divide. While there are pros and cons to each method, when used together, they have the ability to create a complete solution that can deliver gigabit and multi-gigabit bandwidth to both urban and ultra-rural communities.

So, If We Know How, Why Is There Still A Divide?

The answer is simple: lack of action. We know the course; now we need to implement. Therefore, to all of those reading this who feel inspired or compelled to truly take part in closing the divide, reach out to your local and state municipalities, and demand action.