February 2nd, 2021

CSPs Must Adapt and Automate to Close the Digital Divide

Our daily lives now require high-speed, always-on connections to everything that matters – work, school, healthcare, supply chains, finance, and more. As the pandemic laid bare, communications networks are the essential engine in our social and economic construct – as essential a utility as electricity and water. When the world went home last year, Communications Services Providers (CSPs) stepped up with networks that stood up to spiking demand. Carriers also partnered with government agencies to mitigate the crisis for underserved and underprivileged citizens and businesses. 

Now, as the pandemic lingers on, and remote work/learning stays the norm, service providers face enormous pressure to expand services, and sustain robust connections on the networks we rely on to continue to deliver reliable, personalized, customer experiences. That’s a tall order for many reasons.

For service providers to expand and densify their network access, they need access to a vast footprint so enterprises can connect to all their locations. However, no single carrier can reach every location, so they are forced to buy services from multiple service providers. There’s also low visibility into who has the services clients need; complex ordering processes that are unique to each provider; and outdated systems can’t keep up. 

Conquering the digital divide requires new ways of operating and delivering services, including ramping up efforts at focused digital transformation – particularly in the area of the connectivity order process. By simplifying and speeding the order management process, providers can more easily and efficiently expand their footprint to help bridge the divide, especially in rural areas. 

Millions still left out of the digital age.
While we’d like to believe it’s only developing countries that lack digital infrastructure and access, the U.S. still has critical gaps. According to the FCC, 97% of Americans in urban areas have access to high-speed fixed service. Yet urban digital deserts still impede specific communities and population groups. In rural areas, 1 in 5 Americans resides, only 65% have broadband access. On tribal lands, barely 60% have access. Three out of five rural residents report broadband access is a pressing issue. 

It’s one thing for these citizens to miss out on the latest entertainment apps. It’s a whole different ballgame when they miss out on telehealth options; when children can’t participate in online classrooms; and when businesses lack high-speed, reliable connections to employees, suppliers, and customers. 

COVID-19 reinforced the priority already given by government and industry to address our digital divide. Many initiatives are underway. Service providers and electric utilities are partnering up, creating co-ops to deploy fiber networks and deliver broadband services to underserved communities. As part of the most recent COVID relief bill, Congress approved another $7 billion for broadband initiatives that includes $3.2 billion for low-income broadband access and $65 million to implement more accurate broadband mapping—a fundamental next step to identify and close the gaps. 

This follows the FCC’s move in December to award $9.2 billion as part of its “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund” auction to provide high-speed broadband internet service to 5.22 million unserved homes and businesses. Winning bidders included established ISPs relying on traditional fiber optic cables to deliver high-speed Internet, and newcomer SpaceX’s satellite-based solution which is still in beta. A future auction will award another $11.2 billion to target other partially served areas and remaining unserved areas.

With billions about to be invested, the industry needs to set a course that will generate ROI. These investments will help carriers make a dent in the digital divide.

But money alone won’t help carriers:

  • Obtain increased capacity from cell towers and more sites due to the nature of 5G
  • Deploy high-speed networks network closer to the edge computing and to support low-latency connectivity (i.e., connected vehicles)
  • Extend their broadband services to areas which have historically not been cost-effective

It will require automated systems that reduce the ordering timeliness for ethernet and high-speed internet access – systems that help carriers show real ROI on their digital transformation efforts, fast.

The next-gen platform for selling wholesale network transport and access.
Neustar’s Universal Order Connect (UOC) is a cloud-based solution that helps CSPs deliver new connections faster. The platform streamlines how off-net access, transport, and backhaul services are marketed and sold. It was designed to deliver order automation to help CSPs:

  • Instantly connect buyers to the right providers though an automated serviceability and quoting process
  • Create and manage orders with ease, ensuring each order is correctly submitted

Neustar’s ecosystem of carriers and service providers, coupled with our deep expertise, provides an industry solution that helps you navigate the nuances of the ordering process and deliver on the details that matter. Learn more and watch the video.

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