Will More Bay Area Fiber Narrow Digital Divide?

In the way we talk about the Internet, you might think it’s an amorphous gas, like air. Store some of your most important files, photos and memories in an ambiguous “cloud”. Illegal goods and services are exchanged via cryptocurrencies on the undefined “dark web”. We “upload” packets of information every day, but we don’t know exactly what “up” really means.

In reality, the Internet relies on physical infrastructure. Cable networks send information around the world, forming a complex, physically connected Web (inter-Web if needed). The most modern and efficient of these cables are optical fibers, which transmit information at the speed of light.

However, much of the world’s Internet infrastructure, including most of California, still relies on copper cable networks. Before the pandemic, worrying about whether your home or apartment was wired with fiber optic or copper cables was primarily a function of streaming media consumption. But in the post-pandemic world, more and more people are seeing how important fast and reliable connections are.

The physical nature of Internet infrastructure is less obvious in urban centers like us, but it can be more obvious in more rural areas.In a popular tourist destination Puerto Escondido, Mexico, for example, the lack of a well-connected fiber network means that many homes do not have the internet. The connection speed of the accessible person depends entirely on how close the router is physically to the satellite tower approaching in the middle of the town. Satellite towers send and receive data by combining WiFi microwave signals and direct fiber links, but are connected to individual homes via copper telephone lines. The same is true in many rural and low-income areas of the United States. This is what policy analysts sayDigital divide.. “

Earlier this month, the largest private wireless infrastructure company in the United States MobilityAnnounced that it has begun construction of an additional 200 miles of fiber that stretches between San Francisco and Oakland via the same Transbay Tube that carries BART trains. The new connection will branch to 40 local data centers, increasing Internet speeds for more than 2,000 technology companies in the region. The new fiber network will reach 60% of the San Francisco Bay Area. Press release.. But what does that mean for everyday users?

Probably not so many, according to Ernesto Falcon, senior legislative adviser to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We don’t overestimate how far ahead wireless connections go,” he says.

As far as the bay area is concerned, even the worst offs are relatively well connected. Fiber Optic Broadband Service Providers 25 percent of CaliforniaHowever, according to FCC filings, in San Francisco, 65.31 percent of residents have access to fiber internet at home. The only city with good connectivity is Los Angeles, with a slightly higher fiber coverage of 66.52 percent. However, counties along the eastern and northern borders of California are lagging behind. Coverage is often 10 to 15 percent less than the corresponding in urban areas..Due to disparity, Governor Gavin Newsom $ 7 billion investment in broadband infrastructureWas approved last week as part of the $ 264 billion state budget.

However, more than 200 miles of fiber installed by private companies does not necessarily solve the problem of unfair Internet access. First, the Bay Area community (mainly southeastern San Francisco) where the new network does not currently have broadband or has restricted access because it does not publish geographic data on which regions it serves. It is impossible to determine if the patch) will be reached.According to underdeveloped Swath along the western edge of San Francisco, Presidio, Treasure Island, West Oakland, and North Bay. FCC data.. In addition, the way the fiber lines are placed has a significant impact on the usefulness of the fiber lines. For example, a “converged” plan, where the networks between homes are more integrated, is much more efficient than a standalone network. In other words, how the fiber lines are arranged is just as important as how many miles it is in deciding whether Mobilitie’s fiber upgrade narrows the digital divide.

“If it’s a completely private network, servicing a small number of private interests, it probably won’t change anything,” says Falcon. “If you’re going to an area with traditionally slow access, it’s a pretty good proxy to go to an area that lacks infrastructure.” Mobilitie didn’t publish network maps or geographic data on request. ..

That said, reducing the digital divide is not the only goal of improving Internet infrastructure. Christos Karmis, CEO of Mobilitie, said in a press release that the new fiber network will change “the way businesses connect across the region.” He is not a mistake. From advanced live streaming to autonomous driving, there are many new technologies that require immediate delivery of information. -Self-driving cars require a much stronger wireless infrastructure than they do today. These technologies may not be important to our lives for the next five years, but they can be very successful in the coming decades.

Take, for example, a public school during a pandemic. Knowing that not all Auckland students trying to study online have the right technology, the Auckland Unified School District has distributed thousands of laptops and internet hotspots to their students. However, in addition to the logistical issues of actually distributing the technology, the hotspots themselves were often still inadequate, Falcon says. This depends on how powerful the wireless infrastructure in your student neighborhood is already. “Most of them [hotspots] I was sucked in because I was far away from the convenient tower and already had to share a slow connection, “says Falcon.

From here, we all know the story: children who couldn’t or consistently attend online classes. Increasingly lagging behind their skilled peers As the pandemic progresses. According to experts, distance learning (and more generally technical enhancement education) will only become more prominent in the coming decades, and if not all households have the proper high-speed internet connection, then Inequality worsens.

But as far as innovation is concerned, America is only as strong as our weakest (web) links. Meanwhile, global competitors like China far outperform the United States in nationwide broadband connections.For example, between 2013 and 2019 China surpasses the United States 9 to 1 in broadband infrastructure development.. This means that global companies that want to test their nifty gadgets in the optimal wireless environment can choose to pilot their projects abroad before bringing them here. “If you have a billion advanced Asian markets [fiber] Line, you’re probably going to experiment there first, before you try to see where else you can, “Falcon explains.

For Americans in the coming years, it may just be FOMO — already less access to some of the nifty technologies developed in China, such as almost universal mobile payments. I will. After 10 years, you may not be able to drive the same car, connect efficiently with colleagues, or be healed with the same medical skills. “When the internet connection is slow,” Wow, I can’t really use Facebook right now, can I really use Netflix now? “He explains. “The list of apps will grow over the years.”

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