July 12, 2021

Closing the Digital Divide in Rural Communities

Across the US, rural communities aren’t afforded the same luxury of wireless accessibility as urban cities. In fact, at least 45 million people do not have broadband access at all. This means millions cannot use the internet for school, work, or leisure, which hinders their ability to communicate and have the same career opportunities as others in more connected areas. It’s long been understood that rural communities are neglected and have sparse wireless coverage, but as 5G continues to sweep the nation the digital divide between rural and urban communities is widening and becoming an even bigger problem.

In areas, such as tribal lands, only half of households subscribe to fixed home internet service. To help close this digital divide, the Biden administration is offering $1 billion in grants to eligible tribal land entities for broadband deployment as well as for digital inclusion, workforce development, distance learning, and telehealth. 

Additionally, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) has also taken the initiative to allocate funding into rural communities and their infrastructures to ensure they have durable networks with higher speeds and lower latency. This $20.4 billion fund aims to bring rural communities high-speed fixed broadband access. The proposal is divided into two phases. Phase one auctions broadband to help provide over five million homes and businesses with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps. Phase two covers other census blocks that were not completely covered.

Sometimes, areas subjected to wireless neglect would surprise you. That’s because a lack of connectivity isn’t always due to a lack of finances and prioritization, but a logistics challenge. Yosemite National Park is a prime example of a rural area that is at risk of low connectivity, despite being a national tourist destination. The area encompasses 1,200 miles of wilderness and has around 4.5 million visitors a year that need their phone to access trails and communicate with each other. Fortunately, ADRF was capable of aiding Yosemite in implementing broadband access in areas where it was absent, such as the visitor center.  During the deployment, ADRF had to overcome challenges caused by huge rock formations and trees along with having to quickly install the system to reduce the disturbance to visitors in the park.

Rural connectivity is a continuous problem that looms over different areas in the nation. ADRF’s SDR-ICS series can help increase rural wireless connectivity by enhancing indoor and outdoor coverage while ensuring wireless coverage in even the most remote locations. It supports frequency bands from 600 Mhz to 2.5GHz including Band 14 (FirstNet). While ADRF’s SDR-ICS aids in increasing rural connectivity, the accessibility of the product is very useful in times of crisis as well. Major carriers, such as Verizon, used this product as a cellular repeater on wheels (CROW) during devastating hurricanes and other disasters to assist those in need. 

To learn more about ADRF’s SDR-ICS series, visit http://adrftech.com/solution/repeater-solutions/.