Rocket Fiber CEO discusses how to ‘Fix the Damn Internet’ at 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference
Last month at the location of one of Michigan’s most treasured landmarks, the 2019 Mackinac Policy conference gathered to discuss pressing social and economic issues that concern the state’s residents, business leaders, and politicians.
The schedule of events, which took place May 28 through May 31 on Mackinac Island, included panel discussions featuring some of Michigan’s premier leaders; ranging in topic from corporate sustainability to political civility. One of the key conversations held during the four-day event, however, was in regard to broadband internet access across the state of Michigan.
The Global Race to 5G Broadband Internet
Rocket Fiber Co-Founder and CEO Marc Hudson was a featured keynote speaker for Digital Inclusion: #FixTheDamnInternet for Michigan Students, accompanied by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II and Johannes Bauer, Chairperson of the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University. Together the group discussed Michigan’s race in the quest for 5G internet speeds.
Speaking after the conference, Hudson explained some of the unseen advantages of making the jump to 5G:
“The basic premise is that 5G is about a 10x increase in capacity from the current 4G network,” he says. “We always like to draw the analogy from the past.”
“When we went from 1G to 2G we were able to text message on our phones,” Hudson shares. “When we went from 2G to 3G we were able to now use the internet on our phones and get on web browsers and go on websites. From 3G to 4G we started having things like Uber and Lyft and other on-demand apps that were created because they had the bandwidth capability.”
“5G is going to unlock a whole new generation of innovative technology to really disrupt multiple industries.”
When asked about what industries have the potential to benefit from the development of 5G technology, Hudson is quick to mention autonomous vehicles.
“The conversation is how do we leverage 5G in Southeast Michigan to continue to be a leader in [autonomous vehicles] because we are still very much a car city,” Hudson says. “That’s our past, that’s our present, and should be part of our future.”
Conquering the Rural and Urban Digital Divide
The panel also discussed challenges facing rural and urban communities in regard to broadband internet accessibility. Though similar in their effect, Hudson explains, rural and urban communities are underserved for two distinctly different reasons.
“In rural areas, there is often no access to the FCC’s definition of broadband which is 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload,” he says. “Or if there is an option, there’s usually only one, which means there’s no competition. There’s no free market economics.”
In order to increase rural connectivity and to attain Michigan’s statewide goal of 1G broadband internet access by 2026, Hudson says that private industry will have to make a massive public investment.
“Private industry is going to have to spend a lot of money to make that happen – and that’s with multiple providers including cable, DSL, fiber, and wireless,” he says. “On the wireless side, we talked about 5G being a major tool in the toolkit to hit those goals.”
“And what I mean by that is with 5G, for the first time in the history of the internet in this country, you’ll be able to buy home internet wirelessly.”
With wireless access to 5G broadband internet via a cellular network, both rural and urban areas will someday have the opportunity to choose from several wireless providers instead of just one or two.
“It’s all about choice, and when people have choices the prices will go down, the speed will go up, and the service will be better.”
More competition could also help urban residents who are currently underserved in Michigan, according to Hudson.
“Detroit still remains one of the most impoverished large cities in the country where the average median household income is only $30,000 per year,” Hudson explains. “So, what we know is that a lot of families in households in Detroit are mobile only.”
“The home internet experience is a luxury and a lot of families aren’t able to afford that.”
In mobile-only households, families may be able to connect to Facebook or Instagram, but they’re missing out on a lesson in digital literacy.
“Digital literacy remains a challenge for teaching people what they can do to maximize using the internet,” Hudson says. “Whether that’s using the internet to find a job or apply for government assistance. Some people are still printing things out, filling them in, and mailing it and doing things the old fashioned way.”
“There’s a lot of things you can get left behind on if you haven’t been trained and you haven’t done it and you’re not around people who can teach you.”
The Mackinac Policy Conference is an annual event hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber to discuss Michigan’s pressing policy issues. The conference features some of the most recognized thought leaders both in the state and across the nation. More information can be found at detroitchamber.com/mpc