Need for Ubiquitous Broadband Coverage Requires Seamless Connectivity
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, close to one-third of people living in the U.S. had no access to broadband (defined here as a connection speed equal or greater than 25Mps.) At that time, this fact was largely seen as an unfortunate byproduct of the market economy. It’s a big country, broadband can be expensive to install, and progress was largely dictated by supply and demand.
Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, however, lack of access to broadband isn’t just unfortunate. It means you can’t work from home, educate your children, visit a doctor through telehealth services, or see the faces of your friends and family. In short, lack of broadband access can be a personal and economic tragedy. And that issue isn’t going to change any time soon for students who will likely be studying online through the fall.
While the pressures of the coronavirus has led to measures from lawmakers, including an $80 billion proposal for nationwide broadband expansion, those pressures won’t be there forever. The applications for broadband will continue to grow. That’s expected to drive orders for supporting infrastructure at an unprecedented pace over the next five – ten years. As a result, Communication Service Providers (CSPs) process thousands of orders for Ethernet and broadband every month.
Why Does Broadband Expansion Lag?
The previous slow pace of broadband expansion isn’t really the fault of carriers–the economics of broadband mean that it takes a long time and a lot of money to install, which also means that it can take a long time for carriers to see any ROI. Deploying fiber and gear in rugged remote terrain and receiving a limited return due to the sparsely population makes it difficult to recover costs.
It’s relatively easy to build a single long trench and install fiber within it. It’s exponentially more difficult to split off that fiber and dig trenches for each neighborhood and ultimately to each household. Deploying broadband access across the country requires coordination amongst many stakeholders (government, service providers, fiber providers, etc.) as no single carrier has ubiquitous coverage, and without government intervention lack the financial motivation to build to these rural areas. Service providers will need to work with each other stitch together a meshed layer of connectivity (Ethernet, fiber, 5G etc.) to reach these remote populations.
Good News - Barriers are Steadily Dropping.
Individual states are creating goals and policy frameworks for broadband expansion and unlocking grant funds to defray the cost of installation. The Pew Charitable Trusts released a report detailing how nine states took taking action and making progress using these methods.
As a result of these actions, the outlook for broadband expansion in America was already beginning to improve, even before the pandemic hit.
Americans increasingly need and enjoy products that rely on widely available high-speed Internet to function. Some present-day needs include mobile Internet, telehealth, remote learning, video games, and streaming video. In the future, even more broadband-intensive products will become available – thus spurring the need for increased expansion of faster broadband.
Telehealth Takes Center Stage.
Many of us are experiencing telemedicine for the first time, albeit in a limited form. By April of this year, 79 percent of hospitals were already using the technology due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and three-fourths of Americans said they’re open to telehealth if it’s an option.
Future forms of telemedicine may involve much more than a Zoom call with your doctor, however. Instead of flying out to see a specialist surgeon for operations involving cancer or bypass surgery, the surgeon may come to you – albeit in remote form. Using a combination of advanced robotics and high-bandwidth connectivity, surgeons could potentially diagnose and operate on patients anywhere in the world.
Future Drivers for Expanded Broadband Access.
We all know that technological progress won’t stop in time soon. New technologies like 5G are ushering in advanced digital capabilities to support an endless list of enterprise, medical, municipal, and industrial applications and use cases. The resulting applications and services will rely on the ability to connect to a high-speed broadband network. And the demand for these technologies will help drive further expansion of America’s broadband infrastructure.
At Neustar, we help carriers keep pace with these changes, enabling them to expand access to broadband by simplifying the order process so they can provide meshed services to all parts of the country, including rural areas. If you’d like more information about Neustar and what we’re doing to help make the Internet better, contact us today!