C Spire rural broadband consortium steps up effort to bridge digital divide, launches website

A rural broadband consortium led by C Spire has launched a new website to help educate and provide updates about the group’s efforts to help bridge the country’s digital divide using various broadband technologies.  

C Spire, the nation’s sixth-largest wireless provider, along with partners Airspan Networks, Microsoft, Nokia, and Siklu formed the consortium in late January to find new approaches to solving the broadband gap. The group also aims to create new business models that regional fixed and wireless broadband providers, and utilities can use to enhance adoption in rural areas.

RELATED: Microsoft, Watch Communications ink pact to expand Airband Initiative in 3 states

Coinciding with the website launch, the group published a white paper (PDF) with information about the rural broadband access issue.

In addition to the new white paper and blog posts, the website will house updates on the consortium’s testing and deployment efforts with broadband technologies including TV white spaces, massive MIMO using Band 41 LTE spectrum, and C Spire’s fixed wireless 5G product.

C Spire’s Chief Innovation Officer Craig Sparks said in a statement that the consortium is on track to achieve its goal of developing a new blueprint for closing the broadband access gap, with work initially focused on the state of Mississippi.  

C Spire is based in Mississippi, a state where almost half of the 3 million residents live in rural areas and nearly 28% lack any broadband connectivity, according to the consortium. The group pointed to a 2017 study from the Mississippi State University Center for Technology Outreach that found the state’s lack of broadband access, and slow internet speeds result in rural counties losing millions of dollars each year in deferred economic benefits.

RELATED: Fixed wireless: It’s not just for urban densification

“Our work is focused on developing technology solutions that can be easily, quickly and affordably implemented to scale to boost broadband adoption and affordability in several rural areas of Mississippi with few choices or no options,” said Sparks in a statement.  “No rural community should be left behind in today’s new digital economy.”

Part of the group’s work is also geared on educating and training communities in digital skills to help hasten broadband adoption.

“Hyper-local collaboration and automated toolkits are going to be key factors in developing these easy-to-deploy network technologies,” Sparks added.

With the initiative underway, the rural broadband consortium intends to share its initial findings with other industry stakeholders this fall, and plans are in the works for a larger public conference in 2020.