Will A $100BN Government Fund Rid Us Of The Rural Digital Divide. Ask Space X

There has always been a divide between the urban and rural worlds with technology. Landlines Television adoption was a part of this, but these were not defining differences in economic opportunities. The digital economy now makes this an issue.

This divide is a challenge we have to overcome, or some 25% of the population is not given the right technology infrastructure to succeed in an increasingly digital world. Regulators did not incentivize rural digital operators to invest in reducing the gap between cities and farms. The Biden administration and the SEC have put one hundred-billion-dollar fund (Rural Development Fund) to help solve these challenges with $20bn allocated to break the historic lack of investment because of the amplification of the disadvantages shown by Covid-19. This pattern of rural weakness can be seen in the UK with the UK shared worked network investments to get 4G to 95% of the UK (adding 300,000 more homes and businesses) with a voucher scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises. They are calling this a Gigabit voucher with $5bn allocated for homes. Australia is facing the same challenge the government has ended up purchasing assets in rural markets to reduce the gap.

Unlike highly partisan issues in DC, this idea of rural access has garnered cross-party support. The key is how to deliver it beyond mandates into very nuanced local markets. The complexity of local solutions will slow the process down unless technologies like 5G can be spread further than they are now. Using the example of a tiny rural community like Ratan, Oklahoma, population 300, Bruce talked about what that connectivity experience could look like by 2030 with 6G and maybe 7G; there will be core access points with gigabit-like speeds through high powered antennas.

Bruce McClelland is a technology industry veteran with more than 30 years of leadership experience. He is the CEO of Ribbon Communications and has led several technology companies, including CommScope, ARRIS, and Nortel. Bruce regularly collaborates with other technology industry leaders, standards bodies, and governmental agencies to take action on telecom-related issues. In 2020 alone, Bruce participated in more than 30 meetings with Washington-based officials to bring attention to and bridge digital divide challenges.

Ribbon Communications delivers software-based, real-time communications and IP optical network solutions that provide scale, performance, and agility to organizations worldwide. Ribbon’s technology powers some of the world’s largest service providers (Verizon, AT&T, Bharti Airtel, British Telecom, Telecom Italia). The company is committed to improving communications networks and providing connectivity to businesses and consumers everywhere.