Cisco Reinforces Commitment to Bridging the Digital Divide
Availability and speed of internet connectivity for individuals or households can greatly affect the quality of education, healthcare, and economic opportunities they receive, as well as access to critical public services.
The pandemic exacerbated the digital divide and brought this urgent problem to the forefront. Cisco and its public and private sector partners believe now is the time for the industry to get together to solve this complex challenge. Recently, Cisco held two panel sessions with industry leaders and partners to discuss the urgent need to close the digital divide and released Cisco U.S. Municipal Infrastructure Index 2021, a report on the infrastructure priorities and challenges facing U.S. municipal leaders.
Cisco Rural Broadband Innovation Center: Open for Customers and Partners
In June, Cisco announced the opening of their Rural Broadband Innovation Center in North Carolina to demonstrate to service providers how they can improve availability and affordability of internet access. Through the Center, Cisco is committed to bridging the gap between commercial viability of technology solutions offered by service providers and the cost of serving rural Americans.
On Monday July 19, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and Senior Vice President and General Manager Cisco Mass-Scale Infrastructure Jonathan Davidson were joined by FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina, and TruVista COO and President, Carla French, to share more about the Innovation Center, and discuss how the private sector and government can change the economics of broadband access in the U.S. Throughout the conversation, it became clear that broadband inequity comes down to two factors: access and cost.
Bridging the Digital Divide with Municipalities
On Thursday July 22, Cisco brought together municipal leaders and technology decision-makers who are working to bridge the digital divide in the U.S. and abroad, ensuring that everyone has equal access to a reliable internet connection. Cisco’s Michael Beesley, Vice President and CTO, Mass-Scale Infrastructure Group, moderated a discussion with Antoinette Meier, Director of Mobility and Innovation at San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), Eugene Mejia, Deputy CTO for Town of Gilbert, Arizona, and Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).
The panelists discussed the challenges they face as municipal leaders and technology decision-makers. Antoinette Meier noted that reliable data is difficult to come by, and this data is critical to paint a holistic picture of the problem for leaders to address. Broadband is more than being able to access your favorite websites. Technology has fundamentally changed transportation, healthcare, and education, and data is needed to hold leaders accountable to communities. Every panelist discussed funding hurdles while reiterating that connectivity and access are essential to quality of life.
Private-public partnerships present additional opportunities for collaboration of people and organizations with the same goal. With that in mind, SANDAG and Cisco announced a new partnership focused on bridging the digital divide, supporting the development of SANDAG’s Regional Digital Equity Strategy and Action Plan, which seeks to improve high-speed internet access and adoption in areas where there are gaps. Cisco will support SANDAG as a consultant to help identify barriers to broadband expansion and develop strategies and solutions for addressing these barriers in the form of an actionable roadmap.
New Research: Cisco U.S. Municipal Infrastructure Index 2021
Cisco released new research to provide a data-driven look at where broadband infrastructure is being prioritized for municipalities across the country. The study, conducted by Probolsky Research, polled local government executives from cities, counties, towns, and Tribal governments of all sizes, in regions across the U.S. Of those surveyed, 80% said broadband is “critical infrastructure” and placed connectivity improvements and upgrades near the top of their priority project list, underscoring the pressing need to close the digital divide.
So, what’s stopping them? The answer will not surprise you: the primary barrier to reliable broadband connectivity is a lack of funding. More than three quarters of officials are concerned about the high cost of broadband for their residents, and 70% said they have ready-to-go projects just waiting for funding allocation.