When you contemplate the areas underserved with broadband, most likely pastoral scenes with more cows than people, babbling brooks or snow-capped mountains immediately spring to mind.
That's the message from New York Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamino, who's on a mission to bring enhanced fixed and wireless broadband to the approximately 19% (1.600 million) of New York City residents who are without Internet connectivity, according to a report by the Wireless Broadband Alliance.
Other regions are similarly affected: In Delhi, 29% (5.331 million) of the population are unconnected, while 36% of Sao Paolo residents (4.349 million) are unconnected, WBA found. London is the most connected city, with just 7% of citizens unconnected (625,336), while 10% of people in Moscow are unconnected (1.231 million).
Figures actually could be higher if ultra-broadband connectivity means speed, availability, affordability and multiple choices of providers, Gamino said in an interview.
It's not that New York or many other cities lack infrastructure such as fiber. But as technology and needs have evolved, existing fiber may not suit current needs, said Gamino.
"In New York City in particular there is only a certain amount of infrastructure that is useful to the modern connected age we're trying to create. Sometimes that infrastructure, things like conduits, is aged to the point where it's not useful," he said. "We need fiber in different places than we used to, architected in different ways, to enable things like either fiber into every premise or the future development of 5G networks the have different requirements for mounting or distribution points. Over time we have built a lot of fiber infrastructure, but the way technology's evolved and the way that infrastructure has been brought to bear has made some of it less useful than other parts of it."
Likewise, it can be difficult for a municipality like New York to know the location or ownership details of fiber, said Gamino.
"There's fiber in the ground that is certainly applicable but at least in the US or New York, ownership of that fiber is often distributed," he said. "It's been built by private-sector companies; they own title to it and part of [the challenge] is just knowing exactly where it all is. There isn't one inventory of all this infrastructure."
This challenge is not unique to New York, Tiago Rodrigues, senior director for the Project Management Office & Membership Services at WBA, told UBB2020. Across eight of the world's largest nations, 1.75 billion people remain unconnected; one third reside in urban regions, he said.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.