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Gigabit Fever Spreads from the Heartland Across the Nation; Giving Gigabit Credit Where Credit is Due

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WASHINGTON, May 3, 2013 – It’s springtime across the country, the flowers are blooming, and Gigabit fever must be in the air.

Within the past month, several major companies and communities have announced plans for Gigabit-level deployments within their communities. Several major conferences have featured the Gigabit theme, including the Schools, Health and Library Broadband Coalition event here on Thursday and Friday.

Even the Federal Communications Commission has gotten in on the act: one of the last major initiatives of outgoing agency Chairman Julius Genachowski was the workshop on “Gigabit Community Broadband Networks,” on March 27, 2013.

As the Executive Director of Broadband Illinois, the statewide non-profit entity responsible for promoting internet engagement and broadband planning in the Land of Lincoln, we’re very heartened by this development.

Our governor, Gov. Pat Quinn, has been at the forefront of the benefits of better broadband for many, many years.

When it comes to promoting advanced internet connectivity, many public servants talk about the importance of Gigabit-level connectivity. Gov. Quinn has acted. Well over a year ago, Quinn announced the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge in his 2012 “State of the State” Address.

“Through this challenge, we want our neighborhoods to become Gigabit communities with Internet connections more than 100 times faster than today,” Quinn declared in the February 1, 2012, address. “Our goal is to build smart communities that will foster the job engines of the future.” The challenge allocated up to $6 million in funds for communities seeking an award.

The next step was an open and public competition, in which communities and providers were eligible to put forward applicants that would serve at least 1,000 end users to an ultra-high-speed broadband network. Applicants for the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge were encouraged to demonstrate ways to improve economic opportunities, foster economic development through the expansion of “smart communities,” increase the number of residents with college degrees, connect health care professionals with their patients, and position Illinois’ universities to continue leading the nation in research, innovation, and technology.

By the June 30, 2012, deadline, Illinois had received 40 applications, from communities and providers, for Gigabit connectivity. Thus far, three winners have been announced: Gigabit Squared on the South Side of Chicago — in a project that proposes to serve nine neighborhoods across the community; the City of Aurora, about an hour west of Chicago; and the City of Evanston/Northwest University, just north of Chicago. Additional award-winners have yet to be announced.

What does the activity in Illinois say about the viability of Gigabit connectivity?

Whether a proposed Gigabit project is on the metropolitan scale (as with Google Fiber’s builds in Kansas City, KS, and Kansas City, MO) or within a portion of a city (as with Gigabit Squared’s venture on Chicago’s South Side), Gigabit connectivity is the next major leap in broadband access.

Over the past four years, broadband speeds and availability have been steadily increasing. The maps that we produce at Broadband Illinois, at http://broadbandillinois.org/maps, and which feed into the National Broadband Map, demonstrate substantial progress on this front. This is due to the advanced DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems, to increased penetrated and speeds of the wireless LTE standard, to rural-friendly wireless internet service providers, and to co-ops and telecom companies that have been continuing updating their fiber plants.

Now, Gigabit-level connectivity is the next major step.

Google Fiber drew headlines for this issue through its “Think Big With a Gig” campaign in 2009. That led first to the selection of Kansas City.

Also highlighting the importance of Gigabit-level connectivity has been Blair Levin, the former director of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan in 2010. He’s taken the ambitious goals of that plan and worked to translate them into to action through the Gig.U. consortium of 37 universities seeking Gigabit-level connectivity in their surrounding communities.

Now, it seems like everyone is getting in on the act. On April 9, 2013, Google announced that Austin, Texas, was its next stop.  A few hours later, AT&T announced that it, too, would build Gigabit-level service in Austin. A little more than a week later, Provo, Utah, was in the spotlight. And just this week, the telecommunications company CenturyLink announced that it will tee up Gigabit service in Omaha, Nebraska.

All of this is a great testament to bringing the most advanced-level connectivity to cities throughout the State of Illinois, and to our country.

Google asked us to Think Big With a Gigabit. Gov. Quinn in Illinois took the next step in fostering the smart communities that will be the places for investment, jobs, and the commerce of the future.

Now, as Gigabit fever spreads across the nation, it’s time for us think even bigger.

For governors and mayors and businesses across the country, and for the next Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission: Let’s make high-capacity bandwidth the strategic advantage that America needs to tap into the talents of our communities, our manufacturers, our students and our entrepreneurs.

Drew Clark is the Executive Director of Broadband Illinois, a non-profit organization based in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter. He brings experts and practitioners together to advance Better Broadband, Better Lives. As the designed State Broadband Initiative entity, Broadband Illinois (officially known as the Partnership for a Connected Illinois) receives funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the State of Illinois, as well as through private sector donations.

Drew Clark is the Executive Director of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, or broadbandillinois.org, which is the designated entity under the State Broadband Data and Development grant program based in Springfield, Illinois. Through convening stakeholders, the creation of local eTeams, and other activities, broadbandillinois.org has the mission to build a statewide effort to make the case that Better Broadband Leads to Better Lives. Additionally, Drew is the founder of BroadbandCensus.com and BroadbandBreakfast.com.

Health

Digital Literacy Training Needed for Optimal Telehealth Outcomes, Healthcare Reps Say

Digital literacy should be a priority to unlock telehealth’s potential, a telehealth event heard.

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Photo of telehealth consultation from Healthcare IT News

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2022 – Digital literacy training should be a priority for providers and consumers to improve telehealth outcomes, experts said at a conference Tuesday.

Digital literacy training will unlock telehealth’s potential to improve health outcomes, according to the event’s experts, including improving treatment for chronic diseases, improving patient-doctor relationships, and providing easier medical access for those without access to transportation.

Julia Skapik of the National Association of Community Health Centers said at the National Telehealth Conference on Tuesday that both patients and clinicians need to be trained on how to use tools that allow both parties to communicate remotely.

Skapik said her association has plans to implement training for providers to utilize tech opportunities, such as patient portals to best engage patients.

Ann Mond Johnson from the American Telemedicine Association agreed that telehealth will improve health outcomes by giving proper training to utilize the technology to offer the services.

The Federal Communications Commission announced its telehealth program in April 2021, which set aside $200 million for health institutions to provide remote care for patients.

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Digital Inclusion

W. Antoni Sinkfield: To Succeed in 21st Century, Communities Need to Get Connected Now

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community and understand its problems.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Reverend W. Antoni Sinkfield, Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary.

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community, understand its problems, and provide support in challenging times. Particularly during the pandemic, it has been hard not to notice that my parishioners, and folks across the country, are divided into two groups: those with access to the internet, and those without.

In 2022, digital inclusion is still something we strive for in poor and rural areas throughout America. The lack of reliable internet access is an enormous disadvantage to so many people in all facets of their lives.

To fully participate in today’s society, all people, no matter who they are and no matter where they live, must have access to the internet. Think of the remote learning every child had to experience when schools were closed, and the challenges that families faced when they didn’t have access to a quality connection.

It’s a question of plain fairness.

Politicians have been talking for decades about bringing high-speed internet access to everyone, however many families continue to be left behind. More than 42 million people across the country lack affordable, reliable broadband connections, and as many as 120 million people who cannot get online are stuck with slow service that does not allow them to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer.

People of color are disproportionately affected by lack of broadband access

Lack of broadband disproportionately affects communities of color, as well: 35 percent of Americans of Latino descent and 29 percent of African-Americans do not have a broadband connection at home.

Every person in rural towns, urban neighborhoods, and tribal communities needs and deserves equal and full economic and educational opportunities. Studies show that students without home access to the internet are less likely to attend college and face a digital skills gap equivalent to three years’ worth of schooling. Small businesses, which are the cornerstone of rural and urban communities alike, need broadband to reach their customers and provide the service they expect.

Simply put, having access to the internet in every community is vital to its ability to succeed in the 21st century.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to take major steps toward a solution. Last year, Congress passed President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $65 billion to expand broadband access and affordability. It is essential that we use this money to connect as many unserved and underserved communities as we can – and as quickly as we can.

Different places need different options to bridge the digital divide

As we bridge the digital divide, we must listen to those who have been left behind and make sure that we deploy solutions that fit their needs. Different places need different options – so it’s important that all voices are heard, and the technology that works best for the community is made readily available.

All people need access to broadband to learn, work, shop, pay bills, and get efficient healthcare.

When I talk to my parishioners, they speak about how much of their lives have transitioned online and are frustrated about not having reliable access. They do not care about the nuances of how we bring broadband to everyone. They just want to have it now – and understandably so.

This means that we must explore all solutions possible to provide high-speed broadband with the connection and support they need, when they need it, regardless of where they live.

Now is the time to meet those struggling where they are, stop dreaming about bridging the divide, and just get it done. Our government has a rare opportunity to fix an enormous problem, using money already approved for the purpose. Let’s make sure they do so in a manner that works for the communities they’re trying to help.

Rev. W. Antoni Sinkfield, Ph.D., serves as Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary, and is an ordained Itinerate Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband's Impact

Biden Delivers Remarks on Free Broadband to Qualified Households

Biden compared the value of broadband to telephone service, and drew parallels to the historic effort to connect the country.

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Screenshot of President Joe Biden delivering remarks at the White Hose Rose Garden

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2022 – President Joe Biden emphasized the essential nature of broadband during a public appearance on Monday.

Biden delivered remarks at the White House Rose Garden on the day’s earlier announcement that the federal government would work with both regional and national broadband providers to provide essentially free broadband to qualified households.

“Too many Americans simply cannot afford to get connected even if there is access to get connected. So, they go without high-speed internet, or they sacrifice other necessities in order to make it work,” Biden said.

“High-speed internet is not a luxury any longer – it is a necessity,” Biden said. “That is why the bipartisan infrastructure law included $65 billion to make sure we expand access to broadband internet in every region of the country.”

Biden also laid out the criteria for eligible households to take advantage of Affordable Connectivity Program, which when paired with the effort by ISPs to keep 100 Mbps download services under $30, provides free internet to consumers.

“If your household income is twice the federal poverty level or less – that is that’s about $55,000 per year for a family of four – or $27,000 for an individual – or a member of your household is on Medicaid or supplementary [social] security income or a number of other programs – you are eligible.”

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