The Tech Policy Greenhouse is an online symposium where experts tackle the most difficult policy challenges facing innovation and technology today. These are problems that don't have easy solutions, where every decision involves tradeoffs and unintended consequences, so we've gathered a wide variety of voices to help dissect existing policy proposals and better inform new ones.

Colorado's Broadband Internet Doesn't Have to Be Rocky

from the one-size-fits-all-doesn't-work dept

It's 2020. The Internet should be reliable and powerful regardless of where you live, but that's not the case for millions of Americans. In many ways, Coloradans represent a microcosm of the demographic diversity across the country, with groups from farmers to business owners, students and young professionals. This makes the job of a regional service provider like us challenging.

And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic threw the country into disarray.

In the rural Colorado communities we serve, many of our customers were content with a stable connection that enabled them to browse, stream their favorite shows and occasionally check work email from home. That quickly changed eight months ago when some broadband luxuries became necessities.

This story isn't uniquely ours, though, as rural providers around the country that work with communities—historical or not—face similar challenges.

Since our founding in 1990, Jade Communications has worked with mayors of some of America's oldest towns to ensure that their history remained intact, but that their citizens weren't left behind by obsolete technology. What we see and hear from bigger internet providers is a one-size-fits-all approach. That would never work in San Luis, Colorado, the oldest town in the state, or most rural communities we serve.

We have built an understanding of the 30 communities we serve in Southern Colorado and quickly realized that while the services we provided were far better than average, residents weren't used to working and learning remotely.

Instead of catastrophe, we found a solution.

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, we offered all subscribers: free installation, a complimentary speed tier upgrade, and a premium Wi-Fi upgrade—all at no cost for 60 days. After the complimentary period, 62 percent of those who had upgraded a service tier opted to keep it.

Pre-pandemic internet speeds were no longer fruitful for our communities. Most people weren't used to their kids being at home or running their business from their kitchen tables. Our doubling (and, in some instances, tripling) of bandwidth was critical to ensuring people could comfortably work and learn from home. We also offered them the ability to increase/decrease speeds to certain devices (or limit access for apps like TikTok on children's devices during certain times of day) via our app. Following our conversations with seven different school districts across the San Luis Valley, we've connected more than 100 students and are still working with these districts to get even more of their most remote students connected.

Together with our sister company, Blanca Networks, we signed the Federal Communications Commission's "Keep Americans Connected Pledge." We are the first and only providers in the San Luis Valley to sign the pledge. Along with the other 390 U.S.-based broadband companies and associations that have signed it, we promised to continue to work with customers disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

But there's more work to do. While we're proud our customers rarely face issues we can't support, much of Colorado is playing catch up. According to local election results in 2018, access to high-speed internet was one of the top list of issues rural voters cared about. This isn't a sentiment unique to Colorado. According to a Pew Research Center survey, about six in ten Americans in rural communities (58 percent) believe access to high speed internet is a problem in their area. While we work in various parts of Southern Colorado, the majority of the 30 communities are rural towns.

We're at a turning point for Colorado and other states in the U.S. where we see an increase in urban flight. Professionals are moving from expensive cities like Denver to rural mountain towns to save money and enjoy the recreational benefits. But many of these new homes aren't well-equipped for professional needs. While the views might be nice, the technology and broadband options are virtually archaic. The same broadband speeds in urban cities must be available to those in rural towns in order to support this new lifestyle and the ability to work from anywhere.

So how does Colorado find its solution? Is something like fiber the answer? Yes, but it is only part of the equation. Though many may claim that technology behind broadband will save us, the digital divide won't be solved by technology alone. Even prior to the pandemic, we built our business on relationships first, our solutions enabled by technology, education and understanding what leaders in rural communities were looking for.

We believe that technology will enable the solution, but it will take people understanding and learning how, in this case, broadband, can support the economic vitality of their towns, cities and people. We've always been a proponent of fiber broadband as a possible end to the digital divide, but it won't happen overnight or without a thorough understanding of the communities we serve.

The pandemic has impacted our lives in innumerable ways, but it has become clear is that connection matters now more than ever before. Rural and regional CSPs like Jade are putting in the work today so that the future can be a bit brighter—and more connected—as our world changes. Without proper and reliable internet, millions of Americans have suffered from feeling disconnected and left behind. It's always been a problem. It has just taken a pandemic for Americans to wake up and start looking for a solution.

Jordan Wehe is the Director of Marketing at locally-owned Colorado-based broadband provider Jade Communications

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: broadband, colorado, digital divide, rural broadband
Companies: jade communications


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    White Text on White Background - Linux innovation, 7 Dec 2020 @ 1:38pm

    "ensure that their history remained intact"! Who's changing it?

    Since a marketing droid, guess just striving for drama and lousily phrased...

    left behind by obsolete technology

    Soon a worse phrase means deeply ingrained habit.

    A non-marketing-droid would think: "left behind by [NEW] technology". But perhaps the referenced "rural" areas are not just standing still but more literally GOING backward.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      White Text on White Background - Linux innovation, 7 Dec 2020 @ 1:38pm

      Re: "ensure that their history remained intact"! Who's

      Instead of catastrophe, we found a solution.

      Oy. JUST the ancient and reliable loss leader with "free" hook, now touted by marketing droid as though original and novel.

      Maz: exactly why are you publishing this self-praising press release? -- Trick question. -- Because don't have anything better. You're probably so on edge over Trump re-elected that can't keep focus long enough to even re-write.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 7 Dec 2020 @ 1:43pm

        Re: Re: "ensure that their history remained intact"! W

        You're probably so on edge over Trump re-elected that can't keep focus long enough to even re-write.

        Trump got re-elected? That's news to Attorney General Bill Barr and the federal judge Trump appointed who threw his appeal out of court!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      White Text on White Background - Linux innovation, 7 Dec 2020 @ 1:41pm

      Re: "ensure that their history remained intact"! Who's

      Several "Resend" got the lying "Held for Moderation" (mine are NEVER released), then in. May be that an Admin watches and flips the switch after several tries. -- One can gauge Masnick's desperation a bit by how many commercial spam account comments show up, and even more by the ancient long-gap zombie "accounts", which after two weeks without, are again showing up...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Durango, 7 Dec 2020 @ 2:10pm

      Re: Marketing Droid

      Well, OK -- the chief salesman at Jade Communications informs us that his company is great and strives to serve its customers. Probably true in this case, but salesmen generally are paid to say such things.
      What's the point of posting this sales pitch here to this audience?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2020 @ 6:01pm

        Re: Re: Marketing Droid

        Because the "sales pitch" is about how to do business and also how businesses can care about more than their profit margin and still increase their business, as well as what needs to be done and what else needs to be figured out in order to serve everyone properly. Not every location is best served with the same solutions.

        It isn't an ad for a service outside its market area.

        You realize a huge thing about this site is how to do business and be awesome, and really serve your customers. Don't be confused by real-world cases of it happening in some way if it wasn't written by a regular contributer.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 8 Dec 2020 @ 11:20am

    Advertorial

    I hope Techdirt got paid well for this ad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt

The Tech Policy Greenhouse
is a special project by Techdirt,
with support from:

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.