C Spire, Microsoft form rural broadband consortium

Jan. 29, 2019
C Spire, in coordination with Airspan Networks, Microsoft, Nokia and Siklu, announced a collaboration to test and deploy broadband ...

C Spire, in coordination with Airspan Networks, Microsoft, Nokia and Siklu, announced a collaboration to test and deploy broadband technologies in combination with new service and construction models to advance broadband connectivity in rural communities. In addition, the consortium plans to advance new models for coordination with regional fixed and wireless Internet service providers, utilities and other regional stewards. The consortium's goal is a new blueprint on a shared way forward to close the broadband adoption and affordability gap in rural communities across America.

The efforts are part of the C Spire Tech Movement initiative, which is committed to moving communities forward through technology with a focus on broadband access, workforce development and innovation. "Access to and adoption of broadband technology is critically important to economically move rural communities forward and ensure they are not left behind in today's new digital economy," said C Spire President Stephen Bye.

"Our nation's broadband adoption gap is a solvable problem that will not be limited in the next few years by the coming breath of new technologies themselves, but rather how well we facilitate them to scale at the edge," said C Spire Chief Innovation Officer Craig Sparks. "Hyperlocal collaboration and highly automated tools combined with these easy-to-deploy network technologies are going to be key enablers. C Spire's intent is to bring the thought leaders in this consortium together to disrupt our own thinking in these areas."

Using testbeds of Mississippi and Alabama, the consortium will begin the work and share collaborative learnings through a series of studies and open workshops over 18 months. The shared learnings are intended to facilitate affordable broadband Internet access and help drive further adoption through digital education and community outreach. The consortium intends to address the problems in ways that can scale not only in regional testbeds, but throughout the nation at large.

C Spire will initiate the effort on Jan. 29-31, 2019 by hosting the International Wireless Industry Consortium's "Enhancing Rural Connectivity, New Wireless Opportunities and Deployment Scenarios" workshop in New Orleans. More details, including initial trial technologies and markets, are expected to be shared at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February.

"It's time to close the broadband gap for rural America," said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft's head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. "Piloting new technology approaches, including TV white spaces, will help rural communities in Mississippi. Sharing these learnings will help accelerate broadband connectivity in rural communities everywhere. And with connectivity comes new and greater opportunities for students, farmers, educators, business owners and communities in rural areas to access the technology and digital skills needed to learn, grow, contribute and prosper in a digital economy."