Having the use of the internet at home, work and anywhere else we take our mobile devices is a service most people rely on. A question that seems to come up that might make or break where a person might travel is “do you have Wi-Fi?” Advancements in technology have delivered a variety of choices for internet users to get this local or wide-area network and this provides them with the ability to choose the proper equipment and provider for their home or business. Some of the broadband choices offered by an internet service provider are cable, digital subscriber line (DSL), satellite, fiber and wireless.
The term broadband means a high-capacity transmission technique using a wide range of frequencies, which enables a large number of messages to be communicated simultaneously. The transmission technologies of today make it possible to move broadband, bits of data such as text, images and sound, much more quickly than traditional telephone or wireless connections, including traditional dial-up internet access connections.
Today’s consumer wants information fast and when it comes to the internet we all feel the need for speed. The higher the amount of megabytes per second (Mbps) the better when downloading information onto the screen. Just one megabyte is one million bits of data per second.
Could you imagine not having the capability to connect anywhere in the world at any given time of the day? Think of a time when your internet service went down at work or home. Significant progress in broadband deployment has been made but these advances are not enough to ensure that advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way. The median download speed across all consumers last year was 39 Mbps, which represents a 22 percent increase from the year before, which had a value of 32 Mbps. This indicates that consumer speeds are continuing to increase.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 98 percent of those living in rural territorial areas (1.1 million people) lack access to broadband. It also states that while an increasing number of schools have high-speed connections, approximately 41 percent of schools lack the connectivity to meet the FCC’s short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and staff. Several state and city officials have started looking at public-private partnerships to bring broadband services to more residents.
In January, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest introduced House Bill 68 to the North Carolina Legislature. The bill, also known as the BRIGHT Futures Act, stands for broadband enabled services, retail online services, internet of things, gridpower, health care, training and education. The act aims to clarify rules governing the ability of municipalities and counties to enter into public-private partnerships for communications services such as broadband internet and wireless internet. As municipalities enter into relationships with private entities, this can lead to expanding internet connectivity to rural communities which in turn would spur economic development and jobs.
In New Mexico, 68 percent of residents living in rural and tribal communities currently lack access to broadband. Sen. Michael Padilla’s Senate Bill 143, the New Mexico Infrastructure Act, could assist with this deficit and the bill passed recently out of the Senate Corporations Committee. The legislation allows state and local governments to join in partnerships with private companies to deliver broadband connectivity. The bill also includes authority for public-private partnerships to accomplish energy efficiency retrofitting of public buildings. Supporters hope it will give residents of New Mexico fast, reliable and affordable broadband access.
Supporters say expanding broadband access will help attract new businesses, investment and high-wage employers to New Mexico and connect small business to online marketplaces. Additionally, the projects stimulated by new public-private partnerships will lead to jobs related to the installation and maintenance of necessary infrastructure.
This past August, the FCC adopted The Alaska Plan to use funds to help bring telecommunication services to communities across Alaska. Without funding, Alaska telecommunications infrastructure and services would be a shadow of what they are today.
The Alaska Plan brings advanced broadband communications to even more rural Alaska communities and maintains millions in federal funds for Alaska’s telecommunications networks over the next 10 years. This successful public-private partnership will continue to strengthen and grow Alaska’s economy.
After The Alaska Plan was adopted it brought in a portion of the $4.5 billion national broadband support fund that has been committed to Alaska’s providers.
With The Alaska Plan, the Alaska Telephone Association, founded in 1949 to bring phone connectivity to Alaska, had participating wireless and wireline providers commit to invest $150 million per year in federal funds to improve and expand fixed and mobile broadband service to approximately 100 communities in rural Alaska over the next 10 years. Each company has made concrete, enforceable commitments to build, upgrade and operate the infrastructure necessary to bring broadband to the vast majority of rural Alaska residents.
The city of Grand Junction in Colorado wants to allow P3 partnerships for broadband and that’s essentially what the Grand Junction City Council asked of local, incumbent internet providers at a meeting this month. The inquiries come as the city is poised to enter into a stage of negotiations with their current internet provider to create an estimated $70 million high-speed, fiber broadband network in Grand Junction.
Councilors are asking the questions before signing onto a second milestone with the company and invited six other internet service providers to propose a plan. Grand Junction is considering building a citywide, fiber broadband network to 28,000 residential homes and about 4,800 businesses at rates to exceed $70 month for 1-gigabit service for residential consumers and $300 a month for business owners. A public-private partnership would allow a number of internet service providers to offer services over the network to provide services to customers.
These potential P3 opportunities are just a few examples of why broadband is an important tool and should be able to expand into remote locations and provide educational and economic opportunities for consumers.