The recent shift toward online business and education activity highlighted the lack of access to high-speed broadband internet service in some parts of the U.S., especially rural America. Independent research by groups such as Broadband Now suggests the number is close to 42 million Americans who are without access to 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed, the minimum speeds to be considered broadband internet.
Help is on the way for those without access to high-speed broadband, as the bipartisan infrastructure bill President Biden recently signed includes $65 billion over ten years to finance the expansion of broadband. However, even with government aid around the corner, more work still must be done to close the digital divide that plagues rural America.
“As the demand for universal connectivity continues to spike, it’s important that every American have access to ubiquitous high-speed internet and all of the opportunities that come along with that,” says Deepak Verma, Head of Broadband Access Portfolio Management at Radisys.
Radisys has been a long-standing supporter of the rural community, offering their partnership through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), a program in which the FCC will award $20.4B over 10 years toward fixed broadband and voice services to bridge the digital divide in rural America, and plan for network delivery success with high-performing future-ready broadband access solutions. The program began in late October of 2020, and has since awarded over 1,200 winning bids, with the most recent coming within the past two weeks.
With over 30 years of experience, Radisys is uniquely positioned to deliver comprehensive network solutions and flexible deployment models ideal for helping RDOF bid winners, and other rural broadband providers, evolve their networks efficiently and sustainably. Through these partnerships, Radisys is prepared to deliver an innovative, cost-effective broadband access solution compliant with the Broadband equity, Access and Deployment Program (BEAD) requirements and supports the growing needs of whichever community is undergoing the broadband expansion.
While these partnerships benefit Radisys, the real winners are the communities in rural America who are able to deploy broadband easily and securely for their own personal use. For the residents who are then able to leverage broadband, there are myriad benefits.
To start, research suggests that the social returns to investment in broadband are significant. According to researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, increasing access and usage of broadband infrastructure in rural areas and its amenities,such as digital skills, online education, and job search opportunities, can lead to higher property values, increased job and population growth, higher rates of new business formation, and lower unemployment rates.
On top of this, broadband expansion can also improve health and life outcomes, offering access to remote healthcare providers, online social networks, and educational opportunities. Telehealth, which pertains to electronic health records, health information exchanges, and mobile health technologies, is also on the rise. For this reason, broadband access for rural America is critical to increasing the use of telehealth in these regions, especially given the challenge of hospital closures in rural America.
“With funding for broadband coming from both the RDOF and now the bipartisan infrastructure bill, high-speed internet access is surely set to expand across the United States, especially in the rural regions,” Verma said. “However, challenges in deployment still make public-private partnerships, such as the one Radisys offers adjacent to the RDOF, essential for rural communities as America begins to truly close the digital divide that afflicts over 10 percent of its residents.”
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