Imagining the next decade of connectivity is exciting: autonomous vehicles zipping down the street, professionals calling into meetings via hologram, and students taking virtual reality walks on Mars.
But alongside the cashless stores, drone package delivery, and smart public transport, the underlying message is that these technologies will primarily benefit large cities.
Picture society as a donut. On the inside - the donut hole - are densely populated urban areas. The donut itself is the suburbs around these urban areas, and outside of the donut entirely are the rural regions that make up much of the country.
Looking at the technology, it’s clear why the marketing revolves around the urban donut hole: the underlying network that supports all of this sexy technology - cable & broadband - is infrastructure-heavy, making urban rollouts more viable.
However, less than half of Americans live in cities. The majority live in rural areas, towns, or suburbs - the donut and beyond - and the network in these areas isn't always as strong.
As the mass market continues to adopt connected technology, one of the major challenges we’ll face will be in the transitory areas. A person living in a rural area an hour from their office in the city wants to drive their autonomous vehicle into work everyday - but can’t use the autonomous feature of the car until they get to a better wireless signal near the edge of the city.
Some of the most exciting startups that UpRamp works with are taking on not only network improvement - including Mutable (Fiterator 2018) and Tibit Communications (Innovation Showcase 2018) - but are also building connected products more relevant to the needs of rural and suburban communities - such as OS Beehives (Boomtown 2018).
On the industry side, we see the 65 global CableLabs members hard at work to enable increasingly affordable, high-speed, and low-latency network access across all areas.
As we keep searching for startups innovating across connectivity, we'll be keeping this in mind: connecting the world only works when everyone has access to this incredible network - including the donut hole, the donut, and everyone else. And if you're someone making that happen, we want to meet you.