Everything from meetings at the office to happy hours with friends are all now occurring in digital space. All of this internet use is putting more pressure on our broadband infrastructure. Just in the past few weeks, data demands have risen in nearly all categories.
The Finger Lakes Digital Inclusion Coalition is a group situated in the rural counties to the south and west of Rochester (NY). The experience here demonstrates the specific barriers faced by rural communities, giving a face to national data. The coalition also proves how communities cannot just wait for outside help—their success relies on bootstrap innovation and consensus-building to help attract support from their state and federal partners. Already, coalition members and partner groups in the region have begun experimenting with a host of creative solutions to expand broadband access.
Getting internet to the school is just one piece of the puzzle in closing the digital divide and the growing “homework gap” in which students lack residential and community broadband access. Even in communities with exceptional broadband in their schools, how are student experiences affected when nearby institutions and establishments, including libraries, churches and other public facilities, have limited digital resources and connectivity?
Over the past year, Brookings Metro and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance pursued research to understand the connections between broadband and health and equity, assess the gaps in broadband access and adoption, the market and policy barriers that lead to those gaps, and promising points of intervention for local, state, and federal leaders to deliver shared value to individuals and entire communities. If broadband is essential infrastructure, the country’s digital divide confirms the challenges to bringing its benefits to every person, regardless of demographics or geography.
Back in 2011 Marc Andreesen famously observed, “Software is eating the world.” Fifth-generation wireless technology is part of that evolution. Amidst all the hype about 5G, what makes it different is the simple reality that it uses software to virtualize activities that were once performed by function-specific pieces of hardware. Huawei would be disadvantaged if telecommunications networks threw off their old ways and began to think like Google and other digital-age companies.
The collision of corporate opportunism and Republican anti-government orthodoxy has pushed the United States backwards on the allocation of important spectrum for fifth-generation wireless networks (5G).