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Bridging the Digital Divide: Ensuring History Doesn’t Repeat Itself

Joshua Edwards wrote his eighth-grade paper from a Citronelle, Alabama McDonalds. Not because he loves fast food, but because it was the only place he could access the internet. His story was chronicled by the Wall Street Journal in 2013.

In 2020, the Huffington Post told the story of Terry Johnson, who would take her four children to McDonald’s each week, patiently entertaining the younger three siblings so her oldest child could access the Wi-Fi from the Greenville, Mississippi store.

The exact same story – told seven years and 300 miles apart. When it comes to trying to connect the unconnected – history seems to be repeating itself.

But it’s not just rural areas. The Citizens Committee for Children notes in its 2020 study that 500,000 New York City households have no internet access.

Fortunately, the BEAD program provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our nation, investing what amounts to over $50 billion in new connectivity infrastructure and required matching investments from the private sector. Together, we’ll connect more schools, allow more opportunities for remote work, bring friends and family closer together, and make communities stronger for it – ensuring no one is left behind.

Right now, states are busy convening stakeholders and potential applicants for BEAD funding. In the excitement and anticipation of building new paths to homes, we must remember the existing infrastructure already in place to maximize the use of this generational investment.

Open for Business: Connecting the Last Mile

I lead one of many middle-mile providers ready to put our networks to use to connect these new last-mile connections. LOGIX has 7,000 route miles of fiber in Texas critical to connecting homes to the internet, and we are already in conversations with forward-thinking last-mile providers to enhance their plans to connect the unserved and underserved. By partnering with last-mile and fiber-to-the-home providers, middle-mile providers can leverage our current and future network to help reach every American.

Existing Infrastructure: Amplify the Power of Public Capital

BEAD is a historic investment that will serve as a catalyst to transform our country, and our industry must stretch every dollar. Millions of route miles of fiber are already buried or strung across our nation – the critical “middle mile.” We must utilize existing infrastructure intelligently to create a multiplier effect to the BEAD investment. Projections show that last mile fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections can run upwards of $10,000 per household. By optimizing our current middle mile fiber, we can stretch our resources further, connecting more households, schools, and businesses. This approach will make every dollar invested count for more.

Honoring Collaboration and Inclusion: State Broadband Offices

With great investment comes great responsibility. State governments have a massive undertaking in a relatively short period of time, and by my observation are moving with great speed to put BEAD funding to use. For example, the Texas Broadband Office has led the country securing the most BEAD funding of any state and creating the blueprint for collaboration – aligning the public sector and industry views with public need. Their outreach efforts stand as a testament to what can be achieved when we work together. They have gone above and beyond federal requirements to establish a robust external engagement process that fosters collaboration and ensures no group is left behind. As a company focused exclusively on serving Texas, we are completely aligned with this mission and committed to doing our part in helping connect the unconnected. States do and must continue to share best practices, challenges and opportunities.

As we embark on this transformative effort, let’s remember that connectivity is not just about technology; it's about people, and empowering communities. The stories of Joshua and Terry teach us that. Leveraging private capital and existing infrastructure, we can turbocharge the BEAD investment and bridge the digital gap through inclusivity, innovation, and progress for the entire nation – bringing families and communities closer together, and ensuring no one is left behind.

Call LOGIX at 281-688-6231, or request a quote today and discover the difference.