In this podcast, Heather “Mo” Williams, Manager of Solutions Engineering at Ruckus Networks, discusses the history and fundamentals of Wi-Fi, as well as our overly optimistic hopes for 5G technology and the FCC’s wireless policies. To hear this podcast, visit the Community Networks Broadband Bits Podcast.
The US House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced plans to adopt legislation that would invest $80 billion over five years to expand high-speed broadband infrastructure nationwide, to ensure internet affordability, and to enhance digital technology adoption. The House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet is led by Congressman Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC), House Majority Whip and Chairman of the House Democratic Rural Broadband Task Force. To learn more about this important legislation, visit the US House Energy and Commerce Committee website.
Jeff Sural, the Director of the NC Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office, testified before Congress in Februrary on efforts across the state to address digital inclusion and affordability. The hearing on “Empowering and Connecting Communities through Digital Equity and Internet Adoption” explored the barriers to broadband access and internet adoption. To view the hearing, visit this US House Committee on Energy and Commerce Livestream recording.
With the closure of schools across Western North Carolina, families have been forced to adapt in the face of critical gaps in broadband service, in order to ensure that their students can participate in remote learning. A recent Asheville Citizen-Times article by Brian Gordon examines the impact of these obstacles to online learning in WNC and follows the story of the McGoverns, whose three school-age children have to complete their coursework using the hot spot on their mother’s cellphone. To learn more about how the McGoverns and other families like them are confronting the barriers to broadband access, visit the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Shira Ovide, the writer of the New York Times On Tech newsletter talks to Cecilia Kang, a Times technology journalist, about our country’s unaddressed digital divide, particularly as it affects our rural communities. To read “Why Rural America’s Digital Divide Persists,” visit the New York Times.
The NC Rural Center will host a five-part series on key issues facing rural North Carolina. The first conversation will focus on Broadband accessibility, affordability and inclusion; this panel session will take place on Thursday, 7 May, at 11 am. The panelists include: Jody Huestess, Vice President for Marketing and Customer Care, ATMC; Robert Hosford, Executive Director for Rural Development, USDA; and Jeff Sural, Director of the Broadband Infrastructure Office, NC Department of Information Technology. To learn more about this series and to register for the Broadband session, visit the NC Rural Center website.
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.