Opinion: A Truly Shovel
In 2008, as the country was reeling from recession, Congress passed a stimulus bill with countless projects that would put people back to work. President Obama observed then that we needed “shovel-ready” projects to jump-start the economy.
While some projects succeeded, many did not because in reality, being “shovel ready” is often impossible. Why? Governmental delays. President Obama concluded that when it comes to “shovel ready, there’s no such thing.”
Fast forward to 2023 and President Joe Biden passed the American Rescue Act, and more recently the Inflation Reduction Act. Those bipartisan bills have many things for many people.
One of their key provisions is the effort to provide “internet for all.” This $100 billion-plus program would expand internet services to an estimated 30 million people, ranging from elementary school children like those we saw on sidewalks outside fast food businesses trying to do schoolwork to isolated seniors and Native Americans in reservations miles from doctors.
Much of this is budgeted for California. The beneficiaries may include some 250,000 households in Los Angeles County with no internet because they can’t afford it, the remote Mesa Grande reservation in San Diego’s mountains, and thousands of seniors living on fixed incomes, many in mobile home parks. To put the opportunity in perspective, there are 300,000 mobile homes in California.
Luckily there are companies that specialize in broadening internet access using technology that is cheaper, easier to install and delivers higher speeds than typically available from large telecommunications companies.
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Responding to an announcement about the inauguration of a wireless Internet service, Kwikbit Internet, at a large mobile home park in Escondido, I went to the open house to see the service and to meet the people who installed it.
What I found astounded me. Potential internet customers in San Diego, Imperial County and thousands of other communities can save millions of dollars to get superior internet service they can’t in other ways.
The mobile home park I visited has 185 units and is 40 years old. Utilities are underground. It would simply cost too much to dig up each street for new fiber connections.
Kwikbit, a Minneapolis-based startup, is working hard to provide broadband to unserved communities around the country. It connects fiber-optic cables to transmitters, which then distribute the internet signal throughout a community. It’s fast and less expensive than anything I have seen.
What I saw in Escondido were two modest sized transmitters in 20-inch square metal boxes on telephone poles at the park’s edge. At customers homes I saw small metal boxes about 5 by 7 inches that are the receivers. That’s it.
As a senior on a fixed income, I know the problem of ever-rising prices. And the demands of every video and audio service to charge you for every type of product. So it’s important for our community to encourage innovative solutions to internet connectivity.
Currently Kwikbit has 20,000 individual customers at 33 mobile home parks, some school districts, and other communities, and has contracts to build out 67 more parks and communities.
It’s truly a shovel-ready solution to communities bypassed by traditional internet access.
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a Marine Corps veteran, political consultant, prolific author and host of the Contreras Report on YouTube and Facebook.
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