According to the FCC’s latest Broadband Progress Report, more than a third of Americans living in rural areas lack access to superfast (25 Mbps) broadband. In practice, superfast means the ability, at home or at work, to download large files, access cloud services and applications without delay or hold a video conference call without any disruption. A reliable, high-speed broadband connection is vital for any business that wants to thrive in today’s digital economy.
However, poor broadband isn’t just limited to rural areas. Countless fiber broadband projects have been stalled or abandoned in major suburban and urban areas of the country, which house 80 percent of the population. This is compounded by the fact consumers have very little to choose from in terms of service providers because of the long held monopolies of larger operators.
This has created a digital divide in the business world. The companies located in well-connected regions are thriving, taking full advantage of vital internet services, while the growth of those based in underserved areas is being throttled. Poor broadband connectivity is stifling the growth of businesses all across the United States. One report found that businesses waste an average of one week every year waiting for their company’s network to respond, due to poor broadband performance and slow internet speeds.
The digital divide is due in part to the actions of service providers that are reluctant to install expensive fiber cables in sparsely populated rural areas, due to the perceived lack of a business case. In those areas where fiber cabling does exist, the cost is usually passed onto subscribers. For established big players these costs may be manageable, but for start-ups or businesses looking to expand their footprint into these regions, the high price of connectivity is a significant barrier to entry.
I founded Mimosa five years ago with a vision to facilitate and build competitive broadband networks, and to give businesses and consumers what they really want: lightning fast internet service at an affordable price. We identified a unique opportunity to realize this, by building the network of the future using ‘wireless fiber.’ However, five years later, this crucial utility is still not widely available.
How can businesses level the playing field?
Until recently, options were scarce. Even in those regions where broadband service was adequate, the choice of provider was limited, because of de facto monopolies on essential broadband infrastructure. Lack of competition drives high prices for subscription plans, which may be affordable for larger corporations, but which dent the finances of small and medium sized businesses, not to mention start-ups. Competition is also our best option to preserve an Open Internet by keeping broadband monopolies in check – startups and traditional businesses alike rely on fair and unimpeded internet access in order to introduce potential new disruptive services to their customers.
A recent petition by Mimosa to the FCC offers the opportunity to change all this and challenge the status quo. Behind the petition is a new approach to broadband which utilises easy-to-deploy and less costly infrastructure, opens up the market to competition, and, crucially, ensures widespread access to the high-quality, low-cost wireless broadband services which underpin business and spur growth. Wireless broadband is based on the premise that, rather than running fiber cabling to business or home, the last leg of the journey can be delivered via modern wireless technology. This technology is now faster, cheaper and easier to deploy than any other access technology currently available — even $50/month in service revenue can provide a great profit for the service provider, and a fiber-like service for businesses.
Mimosa is part of the Broadband Access Coalition (BAC), which submitted the proposal, requesting new spectrum in the 3.7 GHz band to be opened and shared on favorable economic terms, for all service providers, both large and small. The BAC is a coalition of regional ISPs like Cincinnati Bell, emerging startup and local wireless ISPs, as well as the Consumer Federation of America and public policy groups representing schools, hospitals, and libraries.
Business leaders and entrepreneurs throughout the United States can influence the FCC by signing the petition, and join forces with civil institutions, service providers and consumers who have also signalled their support.
When should businesses act?
Businesses and entrepreneurs can support the FCC petition, and help convince service providers to aggressively scale into suburban and urban markets across the US. How long do businesses have to wait to level the playing field? The BAC petition window closes on 8th August, so we’re asking for fast action now, to produce long-lasting results. If consumers do not respond to this petition, it is likely that this valued spectrum will be purchased by mobile carriers, effectively shutting out new competitive entrants into this market.
We at Mimosa are committed to moving the industry out of the legacy networks of the past and into a new competitive environment. This has long been at the heart of our business: in 1998 we started 2Wire, our prior networking company, hoping that government mandates allowing Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) to ‘rent’ the existing copper phone wire infrastructure would create a competitive service market for DSL access. Times have changed, and the crucial infrastructure for business and enterprise is now going wireless. Signing the FCC petition will kick-start change, and signal intent from the business community to ensure vital internet services are available to all.