How Wireless Broadband Can Help Bridge the Digital Divide

April 18, 2017Diana Lengerson


In this day and age, when broadband connectivity is considered a premium but still accessible service to households in urban areas, there are still plenty of areas that struggle to establish reliable cable internet facilities. This stark difference between those who have good internet access and those who have not is known as the Digital Divide.

A Closer Look at the Divide

Back then, the digital divide was originally defined as the gap that existed between those who had access to digital technology— telephone, television, and other information and communication facilities or services—and those who did not. With the sudden surge of cellphones during the start of the 21st century, the term has been used with a more “internet-specific” definition, pertaining to certain factors such as bandwidth speed, extent of restriction on certain sites, and even the population’s general knowledge of the internet.

These days, access to the internet is a particular feature of the divide upon which the focus of scholars and policymakers revolve. This is important because while internet users have grown from 1 billion people in 2005 to more than 3.5 billion people in 2015, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank note that up to 60% of the world’s population today still don’t have access to the internet. And while 80 percent of people in developed countries have access to the internet, only 31% of people in developing economies can go online.

 Closing the Gap with Wireless Broadband

One of the main reasons why poor communities and those located in far-flung environments can’t close the digital divide is the fact that establishing a physical internet infrastructure can be very expensive, and the process takes a lot of time.

Fortunately, this has brought people’s attention to wireless broadband services. By establishing internet connections using radio waves, wireless broadband completely does away with the physical infrastructure necessary to establish connections. In many cases, homes with wireless broadband will just need a wireless modem designed to transmit and receive these radio waves, and a router to let users connect multiple devices to the internet.

Because wireless internet only requires setting up a broadcast station in an area, construction efforts are concentrated on a smaller area, thus speeding up the process. There’s no need to spend millions of dollars to survey large stretches of land and manage construction of posts or underground cable pipes in uneven terrains, making it the only viable option for communities in areas isolated by mountains or large bodies of water. Establishing a connection between base station and individual households or other buildings is just as easy, requiring little more than basic setup and pointing the receiver to the right direction for better signal.

Setting up a wireless broadband broadcast station also benefits people in the area that are outside their homes. Mobile internet-capable devices such as smartphones and tablets get more consistent signal reception, encouraging more people in the area to buy their own devices and familiarize themselves with the internet, along with the educational and business opportunities it brings.

Opening Windows of Opportunity

Closing the digital divide opens plenty of opportunities as well. Better overall connection can encourage the growth of businesses that otherwise wouldn’t thrive in an area with limited internet connectivity. Schools and other learning institutions in the area will have access to more information, which is instrumental in improving an area’s education index.

Even the local community’s recreational realm can experience a major improvement. For instance, improved access to the internet can help businesses in the hospitality industry attract more clients, who will want internet connection as a form of entertainment when they stay in hotels, hostels, or homestays. Internet connectivity could even give birth to new industries. Allowing video streaming and online gaming to be accessible in an area, for example, could help increase the popularity of group activities such as group streaming or even professional eSports competitions.

While wireless internet may have a few limitations, it may be just what some regions need to help cross the digital divide and grow as a modern community. Later on, a combination of wired and physical broadband connections, as well as improvements on all major types of internet connections, can be further established once a community is able to establish the most basic infrastructure.

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