HOUSTON, September 29, 2021 – As Broadband Breakfast hosted the conference on investing in digital infrastructure, the Broadband Communities Summit that hosted the event brought together leading advocates to discuss the state of connectivity in the country and what is expected for Internet speeds and technology in the future.
Scott Woods – Senior Broadband Specialist at the Federal Agency’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and who led the conference with his keynote address, “Envisioning our Digital Destiny” – hailed the progress that has been made since the onset of the pandemic of Covid-19. But he noted that the progress has not been significant for everyone in the company.
“Technology has got most of us through the pandemic, but not all of us,” Woods said. “The disparities have become even more glaring due to Covid-19. He said that while many people have benefited from improved connectivity, older, low-income, non-white Americans continue to be disproportionately affected by inadequate broadband connectivity.
According to Woods, however, the NTIA isn’t just sitting idly by. To rectify these inequalities, NTIA has launched three programs to reach out to affected communities. NTIA’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, Broadband Infrastructure Program, and Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program represent more than $ 5 billion in funding administered by NTIA.
Broadband infrastructure must be scalable
After Woods’ presentation, the president of the Broadband Group Jeff reiman presented on the value of “tech-driven communities”. He described technology and connectivity as “the third rail in real estate development” and “the importance of broadband has never been clearer,” he said.
Reiman said a recurring challenge facing real estate developers is keeping up with the technology. He explained that often an area is planned with specific technologies in mind, but by the time the project is complete, the technology it hoped to harness may be out of date. Rather than designing projects around a specific technology, Reiman advised developers to focus on building infrastructure that will enable the bandwidth demands of tomorrow’s technologies.
Additionally, Reiman touched on the ongoing discussion between aesthetics and high connectivity. While customers may want high density coverage for a community, Reiman explained that they might be aesthetically disappointed with the high number of antennas and other street furniture that will be needed to support Wi-Fi. at the community level.
Rather than compromising the aesthetics of a community or the quality of a network, Reiman suggested developers go for high-quality targeted Wi-Fi that covers high traffic areas. Not only would this solution be cheaper, said Reiman, it would also combine the best of both options for an overall superior service that is more visually pleasing.
Technology and data for critical infrastructure
In her presentation later in the morning, the COO of Trilogy Networks Nancy shemwell presented a more existential threat than real estate development: world hunger. According to Shemwell’s data, by 2050 there will be 2.5 billion more people on the planet, or 2.5 billion more mouths to feed.
Shemwell didn’t mince his words; as it stands, our technological infrastructure designed to facilitate improved agricultural yields is simply insufficient. Regarding the automated tools currently in use, she said that while some of them are capable of performing simple tasks such as logging data and navigating around obstacles, not all of them are so. sophisticated, “[They have] has the ability not to run over the dog, ”she joked.
To truly unlock the value of these automated technologies, Shemwell argues that farmers need access to faster networks than they currently have, and technologies like satellite alone will not be enough. She said that in order to have drones capable of increasingly complex tasks, they will need one terabyte per hour for their level of data computation.
Shemwell predicts that to meet future demands from the agricultural sector, the United States must invest in technologies that will enable symmetrical service of at least 1.5 Gbps over the next decade.
Satellite capacities exceeded?
To complement the morning presentations, the President and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association Gary Bolton came out of his corner swinging Elon musk, arguing that the satellite coverage offered by Starlink may in fact be worse for communities than a complete lack of coverage.
Bolton explained his position, saying that as it stands, unserved areas have a good chance of qualifying for grants and other financial aid, whether that aid comes from private, state or federal sources. However, if these once unserved areas receive coverage from Starlink – coverage that some have found to be woefully insufficient – they may miss out on better opportunities for more reliable coverage, such as fiber optics.
Bolton has remained on the brand, claiming that only fiber has the potential to serve any technology that may come along.
“We don’t even know which apps will be released [in the future], “he said. Bolton has long held this position, pointing out in the past how no one anticipated how a global pandemic could force the global economy in and online.
Broadband speed standards
Bolton said that at two gigabits per second, symmetric services will need to become the norm to continue to drive growth and facilitate the advent of ambitious new services and technologies.
Despite this emphasis on speed, Bolton insisted that it was only a measure, often used because it is digestible for lay consumers. He clarified, however, that as speed continues to improve, latency must also change.
“[Speed] is just a parameter, ”he said. “We need to be able to reduce the latency of these [sub three millisecond] speeds. Latency is the time it takes for a device to communicate with the network.
“If it’s not fiber, it’s not broadband,” Bolton continued. “At the end of the day, we really need a sustainable definition – fiber is the standard of goals for everyone.”
The 2021 Broadband Communities Summit will continue, in person and “masked”, September 28-30.