The federal government has earmarked billions of dollars to bring broadband solutions to underserved areas and populations across the country. While that’s certainly good news, there’s some bad news too. The costly build-out process will take years, especially because government grants favor fiber-optic internet projects over fixed wireless access technology.
Compared to fixed wire, fiber network projects are extremely labor-intensive. Expansion is slow and costs tens of thousands of dollars for each mile that’s traveled. How likely is it that every remote household will be connected by the time the federal broadband equity funds run out? And more importantly, how many low-income and underserved households will be able to afford the monthly internet service fees?
According to Curtis Dean, VP and co-founder of Iowa-based Community Broadband Action Network (CBAN), when fiber finally does reach low-income and underserved households, they rarely have $70, $80 or more in their budget to cover the monthly connectivity costs. “Even with the ACP benefit like many providers offer, it still doesn’t work for them,” Dean explained.
That’s why digital equity nonprofits are seeking more immediate and affordable ways to provide broadband solutions in hard-to-reach areas.
How to Get Affordable High-Speed Internet into Underserved Homes ASAP
In a recent Broadband Action podcast, Dean invited Mobile Citizen’s Cassie Blair and two other broadband technologists to discuss the nation’s persistent broadband access gap. The panelists delve into the pros and cons of four key connectivity options: fixed wireless access, fiber-optic internet, hybrid networks that blend multiple connectivity methods, and 4G LTE or 5G wireless access using hotspot devices.
Blair says the goal should be getting as many people online as possible. Nationwide programs are promising, but Mobile Citizen’s Chief Business Development Executive explains that “understanding local needs often gets you a lot further in terms of making real progress.”
Mobile Citizen partners with nonprofits to provide unlimited, unthrottled wireless internet service and low-cost, simple-to-use hotspot devices that help underserved households get connected. Watch the podcast to learn more about today’s solutions for connecting underserved areas or contact Mobile Citizen now by visiting our Get Started page.