March 7, 2019
Mississippi is a true gem with some of the kindest people you will ever meet. It is easy to see why we’ve been dubbed the Hospitality State. Our collective come-on-in attitude and love of good food makes Mississippi a great place to live and visit and impacts our economy.
In fact, according to a recent report by the National Restaurant Association and the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, restaurants and food service jobs make up roughly 121,900 jobs or 10 percent of employment in the state.
However, while the hospitality and restaurant industry is contributing to the state’s economy, a lack of access to broadband is threatening it. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), more than half of rural Mississippians lack access to broadband-quality internet — making Mississippi one of the least connected states in the country.
This rural broadband gap impacts nearly every aspect of Mississippi’s economy. In today’s world, connectivity is crucial. Not just for service and offerings of our establishments, but also for the lives of those we serve.
Without high-speed internet access, students are unable to get online and complete many of their assignments; our farmers and ranchers (and some of our main suppliers of food) are left behind without the latest precision agricultural tools; rural patients are unable to take advantage of advancements in telemedicine; and small businesses are locked out of the global economy.
Thankfully, Mississippi is taking strides to eliminate the rural broadband gap. Leaders from across the state, such as U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, have made a concerted effort to connect our rural residents to broadband — a crucial effort for our economic future.
One example of this is a new consortium led by C Spire and other technology leaders that is working to identify and implement innovative technologies to deliver broadband to rural areas.
Most Americans with broadband access are served through a fiber cable — providing them with a fast and reliable connection. However, deploying fiber can cost up to $30,000/mile. While providers can recoup that investment building networks in urban and suburban areas, it becomes much less feasible in rural areas.
One proposed solution to solve this problem is known as TV white spaces technology. TV white spaces work by wirelessly delivering connectivity through unused spectrum between broadcast television stations. By using TV white spaces technology alongside existing solutions such as fiber-optic cables, the cost of bridging the digital divide could be reduced by as much as 80 percent, according to a Boston Consulting Group study.
Furthermore, Microsoft has worked with a number of local internet service providers (ISPs) to successfully deploy TV white spaces for thousands of rural Americans across the country.
Unfortunately, there are a number of regulatory barriers that are limiting investments in TV white spaces technology. While the FCC has made progress in eliminating the broadband gap, it needs to remove the regulatory barriers holding TV white spaces back. That would be a simple way to empower more local internet service providers (ISPs) to use this promising technology and connect more rural Americans.
At the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, we recognize the importance of broadband availability for our state’s economic future, which is why we recently joined Connect Americans Now — a coalition of more than 200 organizations advocating for the simple regulatory fixes outlined above to bridge the rural broadband gap.
Please consider joining us in this important cause by joining the coalition and helping Mississippi move forward with broadband access.