Gopi Mattel, based in silicon valley, serves as General Partner and CEO at Lifeboat Ventures, a venture fund that creates disaster impact mitigation startups. He is the Founder/CEO of CellarStone, Inc., Director at Founder Institute, and Advisor for Pepperdine University’s Most Fundable Companies program. The views expressed are his own.
With the online school and work-from-home necessities due to the pandemic, ugly seams of American life are being exposed. Kids in rural areas of the USA are sitting outside fast-food restaurants to make use of free wi-fi so they can do their schooling. Some schools have outfitted their school buses with Wi-Fi and driven to parts of their school district so that most kids can have digital access.
A large portion of the rural population of the United States does not have access to broadband internet. In the state of Missouri alone, BroadbandNow estimates 352,000 residents don’t have access to broadband internet. The Epoch Times reports that while 97 percent of urban Americans. have access to high-speed internet only 65 percent of rural Americans do.
It has gotten worse in some ways. Just last year, ATT killed its DSL service which was the closest to high-speed internet that many rural communities had. A lot of services including telemedicine is now delivered through the internet. Without high-speed internet, rural areas are more susceptible to harm during many disasters.
There is a huge homework gap due to high-speed internet access. Denson of Connected Nation says that 12 million school-aged children fall into the homework gap. Their schools tend to have internet access but not at home.
According to a Fresno State University study, schools offering online-schooling will affect low-income and minority students the most. It estimates that low-income students will lose 12.4 months of schooling Many families live paycheck to paycheck and USA internet costs are among the highest In the world.
Rural communities’ residences are very spread out and providers don’t want to invest in building out the infrastructure because of capital costs. The other alternative of satellites are very expensive for the homeowners. Even businesses cannot afford the capital cost that the providers charge to run a line to their business from main lines.
Another effect of the pandemic that is gathering steam, is the movement of people from urban to rural areas due to the work-from-home phenomenon. Many companies have adopted that model permanently. Since the office is not required, people are moving to rural areas to take advantage of better housing. There is not enough service to be reliable for home and work use. The gap also puts a ceiling on economic growth in rural areas.
These problems can be overcome. One man literally single-handedly built his own Internet Service Provider (ISP). What if there was a startup that provides a mesh network that connects rural residences and businesses with a central satellite-based connection in local towns. This could reduce the costs and make it easy for rural locations to get service. It is also more resilient in disasters than typical ISP connectivity.
Other ideas to help in this area could be:
- Creating zero-rating services of all common applications to reduce costs to end customers
- SpaceX like satellite network focused on rural high-speed connectivity
Lifeboat Ventures, is thinking about these and a few more ideas to fund in its quest to mitigate disaster impact on society.
#Disasters #ConstantDisasters #VentureCapital #Startup @lifeboatVC @lifeboat ventures
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Heartland of the USA is second-class in digital access
A large portion of the rural population of the United States does not have access to broadband internet. Kids in rural areas of the USA are sitting outside fast-food restaurants to make use of free wi-fi so they can do their schooling. But there are solutions.