C Spire, in coordination with Airspan Networks, Microsoft, Nokia, and Siklu will test and deploy a variety of broadband technologies designed to help bridge the rural broadband digital divide.
C Spire is the latest to join a growing network of companies working with Microsoft on expanding rural broadband. The effort includes a policy push in addition to supporting the development and deployment of new technologies.
C Spire’s consortium will advance new models for coordination with regional fixed and wireless internet service providers, utilities and other regional stewards. The consortium’s goal is a new blueprint on a shared way forward to close the broadband adoption and affordability gap in rural communities across America. C Spire is working on rural broadband in tandem with its own internal Tech Movement initiative, which focuses on broadband access, workforce development and innovation.
The gap between cities and rural parts of the country is substantial. According to a 2018 report from the Federal Communications Commission, over 19.4 million rural Americans still lacked basic broadband at the end of 2017. Efforts to expand rural access have helped, but few have had the potential to fix the national patchwork of networks and service levels.
C Spire’s consortium will be focusing its work on Mississippi and Alabama, which it hopes can serve as proofs of concept for other rural areas nationwide. The company says that nearly a third of rural residents in both states lack access to broadband. The consortium will work in both states over the next 18-months, using them as real-world testbeds for new models for coordination with local providers and community stakeholders as well as deploying updated and emerging technology solutions. Microsoft is also supporting work on TV White Space broadband in Mississippi. Alongside the technology, the consortium is holding several open workshops to facilitate learning and information sharing.