How the pandemic changed America’s ideas about infrastructure

The pandemic has also put a new focus on what kind of broadband technology should be installed where. Many providers started out as cable television companies and have often focused on download speeds as the primary metric since users were most interested in streaming entertainment or gaming.

“Before Covid, providers only advertised download speeds,” said Gallardo. “During Covid it became very clear that upload speeds are also very important.”

This is because we are now entering the internet as participants, not just as entertainment consumers. For example, Zoom requires the same amount of uploads as downloads. This puts certain Internet technologies at a disadvantage and at the same time strengthens the argument for symmetrical fiber optic broadband, which can be uploaded and downloaded at the same time.

The Federal Communications Commission says about 30 million Americans do not have access to high-speed internet, including more than a third of the people in rural and tribal areas. Critics say this is almost certainly an undercount, as the FCC relies on self-reported numbers from telecommunications companies and counts a census tract as broadband when only one household has it. (Congress approved $ 65 million for better FCC broadband cards in December.)

In rural areas, Gallardo says, either older, slower copper-based DSL technology or wireless landline service is broadcast to households over radio waves. Many large providers have stated that they will not maintain their DSL networks in the long run, and landline WiFi has limitations.

“In terms of physics, there is only so much data you can put into this radio wave,” Gallardo said. “If you have a few houses here and there with a line of sight, fixed wifi is phenomenal. It can reach decent speeds. “But once again, users are pushing for fixed WiFi, and the speed is dropping. And any area without line of sight to a cell tower or with trees in the way is out of luck.

Bloomfield, which represents more than 800 small telecommunications companies, says its members typically use landlines to serve customers at the end of their network until they can afford to expand their fiber networks that far. In the long term, Bloomfield believes the federal government’s broadband strategy should focus on fiber: “If the government really says [let’s make a] I think the idea of ​​playing a little ball on broadband is so short-sighted and not the best investment. “

In December, the FCC auctioned US $ 9.2 billion in grants for broadband expansion in rural areas. The auction could provide a preview of how the federal government could make bigger investments going forward, such as the $ 100 billion broadband in Biden’s employment and infrastructure plan or the $ 65 billion U.S. Congress Republican proposal.

A look at the card who won the auctions shows interesting patterns. Landline providers like LTD broadband and cable providers like Charter Communications won large scholarships.

However, click on some of the largest blocks on the map – remote sections of states like Utah, Oregon, Colorado, and Maine – and the winner is Space Exploration Technologies Corp .: SpaceX for short. Elon Musk’s company is now Launching 300 satellites per month into low earth orbit to create Starlink, a relay network that orbits the globe. Each satellite broadcasts Internet access to the planet when the satellite is in orbit over Starlink’s coverage area. The network offers faster signal speeds than satellites in geosynchronous orbits at an altitude of 22,000 miles.

Skeptics believe satellite broadband will face high speeds, not to mention weather and geographic reliability issues. “I see it may play a niche role in certain parts of the country that are so remote that you actually can’t bring infrastructure in,” Bloomfield said. “I think it has not been proven to this day.”

Air travel

Less business trips mean trouble.

W.The causes and effects of the pandemic will change the way Americans fly, even as the threat from the virus subsides. “We don’t expect business travel to ever go back to where it was before the pandemic,” said John Mok, aviation advisor and former director of Cleveland and Cincinnati Airports. “And it was the business trip that was the profit margin.” Some business people may still fly occasionally, Mok adds, but many of their customers may be more comfortable relying more on video conferencing platforms like Zoom.

Ned Hill, an economist at Ohio State University participated in 11 conversations Given the challenges in manufacturing related to pandemic challenges, the future of executives is likely to change where and why they travel. “It makes it hard to close sales,” said Hill, “but they realize they don’t have to show that much at consumer shows.”

Post Covid, airlines will have to rely more on leisure travelers, many of whom are budget conscious. That likely means more nonstops to tourist destinations and fewer nonstops to business destinations – which Hill says will drive more local business travelers to drive: “Every time you change trains [planes], that’s an additional two hours for your trip. ”

What does this mean for the government? In the United States, all airports are government operated and owned by a city, county, or regional authority. Airline mergers and redrawn route patterns could leave some airports behind. “We had already seen network operators discontinuing or discontinuing service in smaller cities before the pandemic,” Mok said. He expects Covids aftermath to accelerate the trend. In the worst case, Mok said, Congress may have to decide whether to increase it Substantial subsidies for air services for the smallest rural airports – or close some. “Is it the job of the federal government to subsidize these markets?” Asks Mok.

Many terminal expansions at crowded airports will be put on hold during the pandemic, awaiting crowds and the funds they will bring to return. When they do, travelers are more likely to pass out of dated, outdated airports.

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