As we have observed and posted several times on our blog, one of the most common barriers to expanded and improved broadband access is the high cost of putting in the necessary infrastructure, particularly in regions of the country where the population density is low and the terrain is rough. A federal “dig once” policy–which would allow construction workers to install fiber conduits whenever they are working on federally funded highway, road, and sidewalk projects–would substantively lower the cost of infrastructure build out and would, at the same time, remove a significant barrier for smaller internet service provides, thereby increasing competition in the broadband market. A March 2017 article in Ars Technica explores the history and benefits of a federal dig-once policy. To learn more, visit Ars Technica.
Members of the WNC Broadband Project recently co-authored a opinion piece, “COVID-19 and Broadband in Western North Carolina,” which was published in the paper edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times on Sunday, 12 April 2020. To read a text version of this article, click here.
The shift to remote instruction as a result of the pandemic has exposed the critical problem of unequal access to broadband service across our region. More than 35 percent of students in Madison county lack connectivity, and even in Asheville, where higher population density means better broadband service for many, there are significant numbers of students who still do not have internet access. To respond to this urgent need, the Western Region Education Service Alliance (WRESA) has partnered with the Dogwood Health Trust, to provide internet connection through the distribution of hundreds of digital hotspots to teachers and students. To learn more about this collaborative effort, visit the Mountain Xpress.
The high cost of laying fiber the “last mile” to the home has left many communities without adequate, or any, connection to the internet. This problem has been made even more visible during the COVID-19 pandemic, as families in rural and under-served areas struggled to support their children’s online learning needs or to address their remote work demands. A recent Wall Street Journal article, “A Partisan Debate Emerges Over Internet Dead Zones,” explores the promise, and limits, of 5G technology to meet our growing connectivity requirements, particularly for that last mile. To learn more, visit the Wall Street Journal.
NTIA’s BroadbandUSA Program will host a webinar on Business Models and Solutions for Rural Broadband. Here is the description of their webinar program: “Rural service providers continue to deploy broadband solutions and work to close the digital divide, developing strong local partnerships and sustainable business models. Please join BroadbandUSA for its April webinar on broadband topics of interest, which features three providers that utilize different technologies to bring broadband solutions to their rural communities. Panelists include an electric co-op from the Virginia Piedmont, an independent telephone company serving rural areas in the Southeast, and a regional cable provider, offering a triple play of video, Internet and voice in the upper Midwest.” To register for this webinar, visit BroadbandUSA’s registration page.
One of the major obstacles communities face in building out or expanding broadband infrastructure in their areas is the high cost of laying fiber. A relatively new construction approach to address this barrier to digital service is mircrotrenching, digging a narrower and shallower trench to accommodate conduit and fiber-optic cable. CCG, a telecommunications consultancy in business since 1997, offers a concise introduction to this practice in “The Pros and Cons of Microtrenching,” first published in 2017. To learn more about microtrenching, visit the CCG Consulting blog.