Broadband Bites: Starry and Microsoft team up in Detroit
Also in this roundup: the latest on broadband bipartisanship in DC; new laws in Vermont and Virginia; broadband equipment spending is up, says Dell'Oro.
- Fixed wireless company Starry announced an expansion of its partnership with Microsoft this week to serve under-connected communities in Detroit. The partnership is part of Microsoft's Airband initiative to tackle the digital divide by leveraging TV white spaces (TVWS) for connectivity in underserved areas. Together with Microsoft, Starry will expand its Starry Connect program – typically used to connect public housing communities – to all serviceable and eligible households in Detroit. Starry Connect provides up to 30 Mbit/s service for $15 per month. In a press release announcing the partnership, Starry cites recent data showing that "nearly 40% of Detroit residents, including nearly 70% of all Detroit public school students, do not have a broadband connection at home, with cost being a significant barrier to adoption." (See Podcast – The Divide: How Starry connects cord cutters and the underserved.)
- With members of Congress back in Washington, DC, infrastructure talks resumed, then fell apart, then resumed again with a somewhat different cast of characters. All the while, universal broadband awaits its fate. Last we heard, on Thursday, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) said they will introduce another piece of legislation. This bill, the Digital Equity Act, would spend $1.4 billion over five years for local Internet projects that make the Internet more accessible, providing grants to states, localities and community groups. The bill is intended to be part of whatever broadband legislation ultimately gets passed. To be continued on that. (See Will universal broadband be sacrificed for 'bipartisanship'?)
- While DC deliberates, more governors passed legislation this week to allocate funds to expand broadband. They include Vermont's Governor Phil Scott, who signed a bill to accelerate community broadband deployment, saying that it will establish programs to connect "unserved and underserved homes and businesses to high-speed broadband service, working in partnership with communications union districts (CUDs)." In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam signed a law to expand broadband locally. According to a summary, the bill "makes permanent the pilot program under which a Phase I or Phase II electric utility is permitted to petition the State Corporation Commission to provide broadband capacity to unserved areas of the Commonwealth" and it expands the program to allow municipalities and government-owned broadband authorities to participate. (See The Divide: Rep. Drew Hansen on passing Washington's Public Broadband Act.)
- A new report from Dell'Oro Group shows that global revenue for the broadband access equipment market increased to $3.3 billion in Q1 2021, attributed overall to continued fiber investments. That's up 18% year-on-year, but it's down 6% from record Q4 2020 revenues. The report shows that growth came from spending on PON OLT ports, and 10Gbit/s PON technologies in particular. "The shift to 10 Gbps PON technologies is happening quickly and on a global basis. The only thing preventing further expansions are supply chain constraints and increased costs," said Jeff Heynen, vice president, broadband access and home networking at Dell'Oro Group, in a press statement. (See Cable operator upstream capacity spending spiked in Q4 – Dell'Oro.)
— Nicole Ferraro, contributing editor and host of "The Divide" and "What's the Story?" Light Reading
Here's where you can find episode links for 'The Divide,' Light Reading's podcast series featuring conversations with broadband providers and policymakers working to close the digital divide.
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