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New Ebook: Bridging the Digital Divide to Deliver Connectivity for All

New Ebook: Bridging the Digital Divide to Deliver Connectivity for All

Our just-released animated ebook takes you behind the scenes to see how we’re solving the infrastructure challenges to bridge the digital divide. Read highlights in this blog post, and get your free copy of the ebook.

Quick Take:
  • The digital divide is the gap between those for whom high-speed internet is available, affordable, and accessible – and those for whom it is not.
  • Enabling online education, economic development, telehealth, and more, access to high-speed internet changes lives.
  • Broadly there are three factors that drive the digital divide: Availability, Affordability, and Accessibility. Availability is the most fundamental prerequisite to bridging the digital divide. It ultimately comes down to infrastructure, and not only the last mile.
  • The solution to the digital divide starts with infrastructure development, which means overcoming tough challenges at every stage – first mile, middle mile, and last mile. 
  • Toptana is solving those challenges, building a cable landing station with four subsea cable vaults to Asia-Pacific and a backhaul to Hillsboro and Seattle. (If only we didn’t have to do it alone.)
Defining the Digital Divide

As many as 163 million people in the U.S. and billions (yes, billions) globally don’t have access to high-speed internet. No one really knows the exact number but it is widely acknowledged that the U.S. government’s official measures grossly undercount the number of people without access to broadband internet. Learn more and explore the data on pages 5 and 6 of the ebook.

This gap between those for whom high-speed internet is available, affordable, and accessible – and those for whom it is not – is the digital divide. Reliable high-speed internet is a necessity as much as electricity and running water; essential to participation in all aspects of modern society. People who don’t have access are getting left behind; conversely, the expansion of access enables all sorts of incredible gains, from economic development to improved health.

“Without a proper broadband connection, communities can’t start or run a modern business, access telemedicine, take an online class, digitally transform their farm, or research a school project online.” -Microsoft President Brad Smith

In the ebook, you’ll read and watch five stories from around the world showcasing how connectivity changes lives. But not all connectivity is created equal. Speed matters.

“Simply having rudimentary access to the internet versus high-speed, reliable fiber-optic connectivity are two very different things. Parts of our community are ‘connected’ with dial-up speed equivalent connectivity, while others are without even this basic connectivity. The ability to participate in the digital economy is a real challenge that the Quinault Indian Nation and surrounding communities face daily.” -Tyson Johnston, Head of Development for Toptana Technologies and former Quinault Indian Nation Vice President

Get your ebook.

Why the Digital Divide Exists: It’s Ultimately About Infrastructure (And Not Only Last Mile)

While the specific causes of the digital divide are complex and vary between and even within communities, broadly there are three factors that drive the digital divide:

  • Availability – Is high-speed internet service reliably available?
  • Affordability – Is high-speed internet service within people’s economic means?
  • Accessibility – Do people have the digital literacy to productively use the internet?

Companies and governments have attempted to bridge the digital divide in the past, with initiatives such as Wi-Fi-equipped buses, internet-equipped hot air balloons, and computer donation programs. But their impacts are limited due to the lack of foundational infrastructure to make that impact last. And so the digital divide persists.

Availability is the most fundamental pre-requisite to bridging the digital divide – and availability comes down to infrastructure. High-speed internet has to be ubiquitous. That means overcoming the challenges to deploying broadband infrastructure: more subsea cables with more capacity; more cable landing stations; more backhaul cables; more fiber to the premises. In other words, it’s not only the last mile that matters.

When it comes to the digital divide, most of the attention – and funding – focuses on last mile connectivity. It is true that in some places a lack of last mile connectivity is the key driver of the digital divide, but there are many other places where the problem starts with a lack of first and/or middle mile connectivity.

Last mile connectivity is irrelevant without first and middle miles, and there are challenges to overcome at every stage.
How the internet's first, middle, and last mile connect.

The Solution: Building the Infrastructure to Bridge the Digital Divide

Toptana’s development in the Olympic Peninsula of a cable landing station with four subsea cable vaults to Asia-Pacific and a backhaul to Hillsboro and Seattle serves as a model for addressing the first mile and middle mile infrastructure challenges that drive the digital divide – and getting last-mile connectivity to rural communities, too.

For 20 years people simply said “It can’t be done.” Toptana is using the tribe’s prime coastal access, as well as the unique benefits of sovereignty, and getting it done.

The challenges and solutions of building the infrastructure needed to bridge the digital divide.

Learn more about how Toptana is solving the challenges on pages 18-26 of the ebook.

All Hands on Deck

There are clearly tremendous challenges to overcome at every stage to build the infrastructure required to bridge the digital divide. Recognizing how important it is for the Quinault community, for Washington state, and for the billions (yes, billions) of people who will be connected by this infrastructure, we are dedicating the time, energy, resources, and capital to overcome those challenges.

If only we didn’t have to do it alone. Support from governmental entities at the local, state, and federal level, including policy support (such as streamlining regulations) and funding will be important components of a long-term solution. As will more accurate data around broadband penetration. And participation from private entities across the digital infrastructure ecosystem.

Imagine a world where the digital divide doesn’t exist. Where subsea and terrestrial connectivity does more than get your business data from point to point – it changes lives, transforms communities, and preserves cultures for centuries to come.

Get your ebook here.

You might also be interested in these other resources:

Luxury to Necessity: How Toptana is Becoming Part of the Solution to the Digital Divide
How to Close the Digital Divide (Sea Technology Magazine)