If the five companies using the most broadband bandwidth contribute more to the costs of providing it, they could help address the digital divide. Roslyn Layton, a vice president at Strand Consult, researched four rural broadband providers and found that 75 percent of downstream network traffic comes from five companies: Amazon Prime, Disney+/Hulu, Microsoft Xbox, Netflix and YouTube.
The pandemic has highlighted the need for county and city governments to provide their workers and K-12 students with internet connections and related technology, especially laptops, experts said during a June 4 CompTIA webinar titled “Stretching the Limits: Broadband Capacity and Availability in a Crisis.” Albemarle County (VA) a largely rural area that is home to the University of Virginia, partnered with its public schools division to provide surplus laptops to social service workers who didn’t have them.
AT&T reports that FirstNet -- the high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network it’s building for use by first responders -- is performing well. More than 1.2 million first responders and other emergency response workers have connectivity. Additionally, more than 11,000 public-safety agencies and organizations nationwide have subscribed to the network, which gives responders preemption across voice and data with multiple priority levels that they can apportion as needed, too.
It’s no secret that America’s low-income and low-population communities trail urban areas when it comes to broadband access. Government and industry must ensure that gap doesn’t expand when 5G becomes operational, public- and private-sector officials said in a House Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing Nov. 16. Today, most electronic devices connect to the internet, and some of those items, like connected vehicles, will be creating significant amounts of data that needs to be processed quickly.
AT&T is beginning a plan to shut down old copper phone networks and replace them with new Internet-Protocol based telephony systems, such as fiber-based broadband and high-speed wireless.
The company is proposing to begin its “national technology trial” in two locations: Carbon Hill (AL) and West Delray Beach (FL).
But while the plan is supported by federal regulators, it has drawn fire from those who worry it leaves high and dry individual end users who rely on legacy copper networks, especially in rural areas, for both plain telephone service and copper-based Internet access services. Copper-based lines are also used for burglar alarms, emergencies and fire alarm systems.
The carrier has invested more than $2.75 billion in wireless and has been wiring networks in Florida since 2012, including upgrades to cell sites, LTE mobile broadband expansion to 20 communities and wired IP broadband to 25,000 locations in Florida. The Florida trial will “ensure that Florida customers, and ultimately consumers and businesses across the country, can benefit from the latest communications technologies,” AT&T said.