The ReConnect to Technological Opportunity initiative of the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) has announced a new grant program, Building a New Digital Economy in NC (BAND-NC). This program will provide grants of up to $5000 to assist counties across the state in developing plans to improve broadband access and usage in their communities. As IEI director Leslie Boney points out, “just 59 percent of people with access to broadband are subscribing to it. And with lower rates of adoption in rural counties and among lower income families, if we don’t plan now to include people digitally, those people and their communities will get further and further behind.” Digital inclusion plans supported by this program will shape strategies to enhance digital literacy, improve broadband affordability, and expand internet use across a range of services. To learn more, visit WRAL TechWire.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel discusses what needs to happen if we are to solve the complex problem of rural broadband access in this CNET interview. Rosenworcel explains the need for improved broadband access mapping; the importance of high-speed internet for economic development in rural communities; and role of federal subsidies to providers in funding critical rural infrastructure. To learn more, visit CNET.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) BroadbandUSA program will host a webinar on the role of states in expanding broadband access, on Wednesday, 19 February 2020, at 2 pm. Webinar speakers will include Kathryn de Wit, Manager, Broadband Research Initiative, Pew Charitable Trusts; Deana Perry, Executive Director, Georgia Rural Broadband Program; and Crystal Ivey, Broadband Director, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. To learn more about digital-divide innovations underway in two of North Carolina’s neighboring states, and to register for this webinar, visit BroadbandUSA.
In her recent CNET article on two bills passed by the US House of Representatives to address broadband mapping inaccuracy, Marguerite Reardon reports that Congress is starting to understand that the FCC needs to radically “improve its current broadband maps, which have come under fire from lawmakers on the left and right for being inaccurate, overstating coverage in many rural areas of the country.” Reardon’s article addresses how “census block reporting,” used by providers to inform government leaders and broadband users on service coverage drastically overstates who has broadband at the expense of those who do not, particularly in rural areas. With at least 21 million Americans lacking access to high-speed broadband (with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps), the economic and social costs of inaccurate mapping can be stunning. To learn more, visit CNET.
In case you missed the USDA ReConnect Program webinar on funding for rural broadband, Connected Nation–an organization dedicated to broadband access, adoption, and use–is making available a recording of the webinar for interested viewers. The recording will provide an opportunity to learn about how communities can apply to the second round of ReConnect Program funding (a total of $550 million is available); hear from USDA officials how the program works; and get a sense of ways to enhance applications and improve chances of being funded. To learn more about the USDA ReConnect Program, visit Connected Nation.
In the popular imagination, 5G (or fifth generation) network technology promises higher digital speeds, transformative transmission capacity, expanded access, and a host of amazing new applications and services for consumers and businesses alike. Kevin Werbach, professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and author of The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust, offers a more restrained assessment. In “The ‘Race to 5G’ Is a Myth,” Werbach argues that 5G, like 3G and 4G before it, will take at least a decade to make its true impact. Moreover, while the change it brings may eventually be great, its implications for the average end-user of the internet might be much more modest. To learn more, visit CNN Business Perspectives.
Beth Ford, the CEO of the Land O’Lakes diary co-op, participated recently in the keynote conversation at the 2019 Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas, CA. She noted that future access to high-speed broadband will be pivotal for rural communities working to address high unemployment, poor access to healthcare and, ironically, growing food insecurity. To learn more about her remarks at the AgTech Summit, visit Forbes.