Technology promises a new world of opportunity for people from every walk of life. With industry-changing applications of AI and machine learning to individual opportunities to find gainful employment with remote work, it’s of the utmost importance to bring vital infrastructure to underserved communities. That’s no small task. The FCC itself estimates that at least 19 million Americans don’t have access to reliable broadband internet, and some experts suggest that number is vastly underestimated. Expand that perspective to the entire world, and there are millions upon millions of people missing out on the new digital world simply due to a lack of infrastructure.
As with virtually every other aspect of life, this is a shortcoming that has only been made more apparent by the COVID-19 pandemic. That might be why Pew found that 53% of Americans have said that internet access has been vital over the past year. Without it, students forced to learn from home find themselves stranded without a reliable internet connection. Workers who might be able to keep their jobs but work from home struggle to stay productive in rural communities where high-speed connections are hard to come by.
But all is not lost. Now more than ever, there is a growing response from public entities, private companies, and academics to address the tech infrastructure gap and bring broadband to the people. Let’s take a look at just a few of the most exciting programs promising to bring the web to the communities who need it most.
Public Organizations Prioritizing High-Speed Internet
Increasing broadband access throughout the United States has been a priority for the FCC for over a decade now—and recent developments have lit a fire under ISPs to bring the goods. In October 2020, the FCC announced a new $20 billion rural broadband auction, making huge subsidies available to ISPs willing to invest in rural communities.
Closer to our home in Indiana, other regional organizations aren’t willing to wait for federal money to slowly make its way into their communities. Our partners at the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN), a consortium representing 10 largely rural and industrial counties in Indiana, have announced plans to partner with RTO Wireless to expand high-speed internet access with a revolutionary broadband blimp. Once the aerostat launches, it will provide high speed Internet as a jumpstart for increased precision agriculture and advanced manufacturing in the area by providing access to Internet of Things technology.
Private Companies Stepping Up
The public sector isn’t alone in their work to expand broadband access. Several public companies have stepped up to the plate, sometimes even in close partnership with public authorities. Microsoft’s Airband Initiative is focused on expanding affordable broadband access to rural communities. They’ve expanded into Indiana with support from both the FCC and the state, which holds up broadband access as one of its five strategic frameworks of the Strategic Plan for Rural Indiana.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX might be making headlines for their reusable rockets and first passenger flights to the International Space Station, but they’re also hard at work on solving the broadband access problem. The company’s Starlink program is completely independent of ground infrastructure, instead relying on a growing fleet of satellites to communicate with ground dishes and in-home receivers to provide high-speed, low-latency Internet access to places that have long gone underserved by traditional ISPs.
New Models for Global Tech Infrastructure
One of the major planning problems in large urban areas around the globe is the unplanned nature of slums and other low-income neighborhoods. Academics from the University of Chicago and other partners have developed a new mathematical model to account for the curvy roads and tight spaces that have made it difficult for city planners and ISPs alike to provide reliable Internet access. Cape Town, South Africa has already embraced the new models, with planned initiatives in Mumbai and Nairobi on the way.
Eleven Fifty Academy is Dedicated to Breaking Down Barriers in Tech
We’re inspired by these and other efforts to bring reliable tech infrastructure to underserved communities in rural and urban areas. We believe that tech holds the key for a bright future for communities searching for new economic opportunity in a changing economy. Likewise, we know that rewarding careers in tech should be available to all, not just those living in communities well served by private ISPs. As we continue to reach new students from every walk of life with our tech bootcamps and prepare them for new jobs in tech, we value the work of partners like WHIN to lay the groundwork.
Are you interested in making a career change, or skilling up to take the next step in your career? Check out our free introductory courses for a closer look at how an education in coding, cybersecurity, or UX/UI design can help you re-code your future.