RIDGELAND, MS - C Spire, in coordination with Airspan Networks, Microsoft, Nokia and Siklu, today announced their collaboration that will test and deploy a variety of broadband technologies in combination with new service and construction models to advance broadband connectivity in rural communities. In addition, the consortium will advance new models for coordination with regional fixed and wireless internet service providers, utilities and other regional stewards. The consortium's goal is a new blueprint on a shared way forward to close the broadband adoption and affordability gap in rural communities across America.
As one of the nation's leading regional fixed and wireless broadband providers, C Spire is uniquely positioned to disrupt the current approach to rural broadband and address these challenges. These efforts are part of the broader C Spire Tech Movement initiative, which is committed to moving communities forward through technology with a focus on broadband access, workforce development and innovation. "Access to and adoption of broadband technology is critically important to economically move rural communities forward and ensure they are not left behind in today's new digital economy," said C Spire President Stephen Bye.
The gap between cities and rural parts of the country is substantial. According to a 2018 report from the Federal Communications Commission1, over 19.4 million rural Americans still lacked basic broadband at the end of 2017. This is having profound impacts on the nation's rural communities. Unfortunately, the problems are even more acute in states like Mississippi and Alabama where nearly a third of rural residents have no access to basic broadband. A 2017 Mississippi State University Center for Technology Outreach study2 found that the state's rural counties lose millions of dollars a year in deferred economic benefits due to lack of availability and slow internet speeds. The report concluded that those same counties will lose billions of dollars over a 15-year period.
"Our nation's broadband adoption gap is a solvable problem that will not be limited in the next few years by the coming breath of new technologies themselves, but rather how well we facilitate them to scale at the edge," said C Spire Chief Innovation Officer Craig Sparks. "Hyperlocal collaboration and highly automated tools combined with these easy-to-deploy network technologies are going to be key enablers," he added. "C Spire's intent is to bring the thought leaders in this consortium together to disrupt our own thinking in these areas."
Using the real-world testbeds of Mississippi and Alabama, the consortium will begin the work and share collaborative learnings through a series of studies and open workshops over an 18-month engagement. The shared learnings are intended to facilitate affordable broadband internet access and help drive further adoption through digital education and community outreach. The consortium intends to address these problems in ways that can scale not only in regional testbeds, but throughout the nation at large.
C Spire will initiate this rural broadband effort on Jan. 29-31, 2019 by hosting the International Wireless Industry Consortium's "Enhancing Rural Connectivity, New Wireless Opportunities and Deployment Scenarios" workshop in New Orleans. While closed to the press, all consortium partners will attend, along with other industry experts, for technical discussions. More details, including initial trial technologies and markets, are expected to be shared at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain Feb. 25-28, 2019.
Rural Broadband Consortium Partner quotes
"It's time to close the broadband gap for rural America," added Shelley McKinley, Microsoft's head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. "Piloting new technology approaches, including TV white spaces, will help rural communities in Mississippi. Sharing these learnings will help accelerate broadband connectivity in rural communities everywhere. And with connectivity, comes new and greater opportunities for students, farmers, educators, business owners and communities in rural areas to access the technology and digital skills needed to learn, grow, contribute and prosper in a digital economy."
"The advent of new access technology will change everything – economies, the way we do business and the way we interact," said Chris Stark, head of North American Strategy and Business Development for Nokia. "It is important to consider how smaller communities can benefit from this revolution and that they cannot be left behind as an afterthought. The digital divide is real and likely to grow to a chasm for those communities unable to gain access to these advances."
"We are honored and excited to be partnering with C Spire and this consortium of innovators to accelerate connecting the unconnected in the rural communities of America," said Eric Stonestrom, CEO of Airspan. "This initiative is about accepting the challenge to collaborate and think outside the box on how to bring the same availability for the ultimate broadband experience in the fastest time to market to those that are literally being left behind. Airspan brings strong experience and assets to this consortium through our Mimosa's innovative solutions and disruptive portfolio."
"It's time for rural communities to enjoy all of the benefits of broadband internet connectivity and the promise of today's digital economy," said Eyal Assa, CEO of Siklu. "We appreciate C Spire including us in this exciting and disruptive journey. As a leader of mmWave solutions, Siklu's innovative technology as well as hands-on experience and deep understanding of the needs, challenges and solutions available today will accelerate bringing affordable and advanced broadband services to rural communities."