BBWN Bites: Microsoft, ODI intro digital divide challenge
Also in this roundup: TIM reaches 3,000 with ultrabroadband; CityFibre and Openreach make fiber progress; AT&T teams with Connected Nation to connect students.
- Pursuing its pledge to "close the digital divide in Italy by 2021," Telecom Italia (TIM) announced that it has reached 3,000 municipalities with its fiber-optic network over the past eight months, for a full count of 4,800 municipalities where its "ultrabroadband services" are available. TIM says it will "continue to intensify" its work in order to bring fiber to 5,000 municipalities and 90% of households that use a fixed network connection by December 2020. These announcements follow news that TIM will also participate in the Italian government's voucher scheme intended to increase ultrabroadband usage, offering qualifying customers a €500 (US$591) bonus to purchase a tablet or PC and set up an Internet connection of at least 30 Mbit/s.
- In other European fibrous matters, Openreach and CityFibre both touted progress this week with their own continued rollouts. CityFibre announced that full-fiber build work is underway in the UK regions of Eastbourne and Middlesbrough, with investments of £26 million ($34.3 million) and £42 million ($55.4 million) respectively. Openreach, meanwhile, announced that its ultrafast broadband has reached 20,000 Kilmarnock homes in Scotland. In a press release, Openreach stressed the importance of these rollouts to economic recovery, citing research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research that says connecting everyone in Scotland to full fiber broadband by 2025 will boost the economy by £4.55 billion ($6 billion).
- As COVID-19 continues to ravage the US while most elected leaders do nothing to help, millions of students remain at a loss with inconsistent school re-openings/closings and a lack of Internet connectivity. To assist with that ongoing crisis, AT&T this week rolled out discounted wireless data plans and content filtering services for over 135,000 K-12 schools, colleges and universities across the country, for $15/month. The promotion is available until December 29, 2020, and it ends on December 29, 2022. In addition to the discounted plan, AT&T is also committing $10 million to provide Internet connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspots to underserved students. In a press release, the company said this initiative is in partnership with Connected Nation, a non-profit helping communities solve broadband and technology challenges, and that school districts and non-profits will be invited to apply for support "in the coming weeks."
- This week saw another initiative launch, led by Microsoft and the Open Data Institute (ODI), to help address the digital divide's impact on students. The joint effort, called the Education Open Data Challenge, invites teams to evaluate the impact the digital divide is having on K-12 education outcomes for students across the globe, as well as the long-term impact of the ongoing disruption to learning, and devise innovative solutions to solve it. The website for the Education Open Data Challenge requests that participating teams identify "gaps in digital infrastructure that affect delivery of education services online for children and young adults, potential impacts on learning outcomes, and suggest innovative and realistic solutions to address these gaps at the lowest costs." The challenge commences on December 10, 2020. Winning teams will get to designate monetary prizes to non-profit organizations or charities of their choice (and will hopefully help solve an ongoing crisis for students everywhere).
— Nicole Ferraro, contributing editor, Light Reading