Bridging the Digital Divide – Quality, Reliability and Secure Access for All
Workshop Program – Spring 2021
This virtual workshop will identify problems and solutions to bring quality, reliable, and secure access to the underserved in rural and urban areas. The problems and solutions will be discussed from three perspectives:
- Session 1 – Reachability: Evolving Access Technologies
- Session 2 – Equity: User Experience
- Session 3 – Extensibility: Innovative Solutions
Session 1 – Reachability: Evolving Access Technologies
Chair: Robert Lesnewich, Perspecta Labs
This past year, COVID restrictions pushed people to make their homes their primary place for education (remote classes), work (remote office), healthcare (telemedicine), and socialization. This shift to the home further highlighted the Digital Divide in which the underserved in urban and rural areas may have lack of adequate and reliable broadband access. A major factor is the existing infrastructure, especially the ‘last mile’. Globally, many network operators, local governments, and federal agencies are investigating a variety of access technologies to efficiently bridge the Digital Divide to deliver quality, reliable, and secure broadband access.
This session will explore and discuss advancements and uses of access technologies to provide sufficient quality, reliable, and secure broadband communications to all geographical locations – urban, rural, and remote – that enables all people to get needed high quality broadband into their homes no matter their geographical location. These technologies include mmWave backhaul/fronthaul, small cells, satellite, LPWANs, FWA, and others.
Session 2 – Equity: User Experience
Chair: Vijay Gurbani, Illinois Institute of Technology/Vail Systems
Demand for broadband communications during the Covid-19 crisis has witnessed a steep increase; some operators report as much as a 60% increase in Internet traffic compared to pre-Covid levels. More broadly, the increase can be attributed to two categories of network traffic. The first is traffic related to the increased consumption of entertainment content, with Orange reporting that 80% of the network traffic in France destined to the US to fetch content. The second category is network traffic that supports productivity and business collaboration tools like Zoom, WebEx, and Teams as employees increasingly worked from home and most K-12 and universities adopt online learning.
This session explores the inherent tussle implicit in these two traffic categories by exploring the following broad themes:
- Effectiveness of business productivity and on-line learning.
- Innovations in the online ecosystem: tele-health, food and grocery delivery.
- Effect on “net neutrality” as governments and jurisdictions prioritize traffic.
- Can regulators and governments play a larger role in fostering an equitable user experience?
- Make unused spectrum available.
- Foster aggregation points like libraries for addressing online learning in disadvantaged communities.
- Investment in broadband infrastructure.
Session 3 – Extensibility: Innovative Solutions
Chair: Carol Davids, Illinois Institute of Technology
As the demand for broadband access has been growing, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the demand for access with increased data rates and higher quality, reliability and security. Increased demand is due to many factors: work-from-home, remote learning, on-line shopping and delivery services, tele-health, and an increased use of streaming entertainment including videos and gaming. This change to a “new normal” of internet usage has exposed the digital divide for the underserved in rural and urban areas. This session explores the technologies that can be used for the underserved to have equitable quality, reliable and secure broadband access. The complete solution is more than access. The performance, quality and reliability of the user endpoint is a significant part of the solution and this will also be part of the discussion. A variety of technologies will be explored with consideration of their applicability to different environments.