Local leaders discuss Connect Americans Now’s plan to close the digital divide by 2022
Three days after its national launch, Connect Americans Now (CAN) hosted a town hall featuring U.S. Senator Roger Wicker alongside rural advocates, business leaders and Mississippi residents to discuss the coalition’s plan to eliminate America’s digital divide by 2022. CAN aims to open a dialogue with Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other organizations about new technologies that can expand broadband access throughout rural America.
“I am encouraged by this new partnership to help close the digital divide,” said Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker. “Connecting more Mississippians to high-speed internet is essential to our state’s economic future.”
To provide affordable and reliable service in rural communities, CAN seeks to deploy a combination of “wired” and “wireless” technologies, including fiber-based technologies and terrestrial and satellite fixed and mobile wireless technologies, leveraging a range of frequencies including the TV white spaces. To make this plan a reality, CAN is urging the FCC to ensure that three channels below 700 MHz are available for wireless use on an unlicensed basis in every market in the country, with additional TV white spaces available in smaller markets and rural areas.
Following CAN’s launch earlier this week, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant offered his support, saying, “It’s critical to expand broadband access, especially for the millions of rural Americans who are on the wrong side of the digital divide. I applaud Connect Americans Now’s efforts to extend high-speed access to the internet in rural America and urge the FCC to reserve white space channels in the U.S. market to better enable access to broadband internet.”
“All Mississippians – whether they live in downtown Jackson or a farm outside of Holly Springs – deserve access to a reliable broadband connection,” said Richard T. Cullen, Executive Director of Connect Americans Now. “We are thankful for the support our cause has received from Governor Bryant and Senator Wicker. Today’s event was another important step toward closing Mississippi’s digital divide so everyone can take advantage of the tremendous opportunities a broadband connection provides.”
“Staying competitive in the modern farm economy takes more than good weather and strong back,” said Darrington Seward, a farmer from Louise, Mississippi, and a member of the Delta Council. “A broadband connection opens up a new world of technologies, like remote soil sensors and targeted irrigation, helping to increase yields, lower costs and conserve resources. And just like any other small business, the opportunity to shop online for affordable equipment and access customers all over the world can be a game changer. I’m excited see Connect Americans Now pressing ahead on solutions that will expand broadband access throughout rural Mississippi and help close the digital divide once and for all.”
Implications of the Digital Divide in Mississippi and Around the U.S.
- 5 million students lack access to high speed internet, but 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires a broadband connection. More than 215,000 Mississippi students reside in rural areas, where more students struggle to keep up with their assignments and fail to learn the computer skills they need to succeed and enter college or the workforce.
- Telemedicine could collectively save lives and millions of dollars annually for underserved patients and rural hospitals that pay up to three times more for broadband than their urban counterparts. Forty-three percent of Mississippi’s hospitals are in rural areas, and broadband connectivity could allow their patients, regardless of where they live, to access specialists and benefit from advanced monitoring services that would normally require hours of travel for patients or their providers.
- Mississippi is home to more than 38,000 farms, and broadband access could bring them the promise of precision agriculture, including remote monitoring equipment that helps farmers save money by optimizing irrigation, conserving resources and increasing yields. It also allows farmers to search for new customers, find buyers willing to pay higher prices and identify the most affordable sources of seeds, fertilizers and farm equipment.
- Small businesses employ 47 percent of Mississippi’s workforce, and broadband access will drive economic growth and job opportunities by enabling them to expand their customer base from local to global and attract new industries to rural communities.
- High-speed internet supports workforce development by allowing rural job seekers to access services online, develop new skills through cloud-based training and secure additional employment opportunities like remote teleworking. It will also allow rural communities to keep and attract new workers who require a broadband connection to carry out their daily responsibilities.
Senator Roger Wicker Press Release