While residents of a South San Francisco mobile home park went years with poor internet, Minnesota-based wireless technology company Kwikbit was able to connect the whole park in 30 minutes with lines that were already there, which is a task the company is taking on in several locations.
“There was fiber cable sitting in that mobile home park for over a decade. The fiber got sold to different companies over time. No one would hook up the people, and the guys that owned the fiber said we’re not going to hook up the people, it’s too expensive,” said Joe Costello, CEO of Kwikbit.
The company took the fiber connection and distributed it around the mobile home park, connecting people within 30 minutes. The longest part of the process was waiting eight weeks for the fiber company to come make the connection, he said.
“This is a technology that’s been under development for probably 20 years,” said Costello. “This is a very high-speed wireless technology.”
The problem with fiber, a very thin piece of glass filament which uses light for transmission, is needing to put in new cables and it being expensive to install. The company uses wireless technology that gives fast fiber-like speed by establishing a fiber connection and using little radio transmitters in a small box that is about 6 by 4 by 2 inches. Fiber itself is more speed than what is needed, at the full extent of 100 gigabits, he said.
“We can go one gigabit. But we go 10 times faster than what DSL and cable can do,” he said.
Fiber broadband is now available to more than 30% of households across the United States, and fiber networks should reach 50% of homes by 2025, according to a study by the Fiber Broadband Association.
The percentage that fiber is not near are disproportionately low-income and people of color, said Costello.
“The vast majority of people don’t have fiber and unfortunately the people that do are disproportionately wealthy. So that’s where the digital divide comes in,” he said.
The pandemic also highlighted the need for internet connection as people depended on it for work, health care, socializing, and more.
Last year, the company went to Corning, an agricultural school in Northern California and found that 60% of the students did not have adequate internet connection.
It is working on reaching more communities, including mobile home parks in Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, San Jose and Redwood City.
“Mobile home parks are really good because they’ve been totally overlooked by all of the Internet suppliers and they’re concentrated,” he said.
It is also focusing on small cities and areas in need of better broadband.