February 1, 2021—“The data is clear: older adults have been falling increasingly behind in digital connectivity, which negatively affects their overall health and well-being,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, in a statement released Wednesday. To combat this, Older Adults Technology Services, Inc. and the Humana Foundation are launching a national campaign called Aging Connected, an unprecedented effort aiming to connect at least one million older Americans to high-speed internet by 2022.
“America’s older population is facing a public health crisis as the digital divide restricts their ability to stay healthy, meaningfully engaged, and financially secure amid the pandemic and beyond,” said Thomas Kamber, executive director of OATS.
The Humana Foundation, in partnership with OATS, released a report on Wednesday finding that nearly 22 million older Americans still lack wireline broadband access at home, representing 42 percent of the nation’s over-65 population.
The report estimates that 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths among older Americans were a result of being unable to access needed online resources from home during the pandemic. Access to broadband not only limits access to essential public health information, social services, and digital healthcare services like telehealth and apps that manage chronic conditions, but it can also lead to risk of social isolation, which has been linked to negative health outcomes, reduced quality of life and premature death.
The report finds that technology is exacerbating social divisions and inequalities, creating “disturbing correlations” between digital disengagement and race, disability, health status, educational attainment, immigration, rural residence, and income.
To address these concerns, OATS and the Humana Foundation will utilize a four-pronged approach: publicize and clearly articulate the value of broadband to seniors, prioritize social equity and inclusion, expand access to low-cost offers, and develop content, communities and experience for older adults to increase utilization of broadband services.
American Tower partners with Nextlink Internet to expand wireline broadband
American Tower, a wireless communications infrastructure company, and Nextlink Internet, an internet service provider, announced a partnership to deploy fixed broadband service to residents and small businesses in rural areas across the Central U.S. on Thursday.
Nextlink Internet, a Connect America Fund II recipient and provisional winner in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Program, is planning to collocate on over 1,000 American Tower sites to facilitate rapid deployment of fixed broadband service to residents. The long-term agreement is designed to bring connectivity to residents across 11 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, and Wisconsin.
“Since our CAFII funding initiated in Summer 2019, our team has put forth tremendous effort in scaling our operational service area into rural markets, and we are continually looking at opportunities to partner with others to accelerate that pace even further,” said Bill Baker, CEO of Nextlink Internet. “American Tower is the ideal partner and our preferred tower provider in helping us meet critical build deadlines and expedite internet access in underserved areas,” he added.
“We look forward to strengthening our partnership with Nextlink Internet through this mutually beneficial agreement,” said Steve Vondran, executive vice president of American Tower. “We’re excited to work with Nextlink Internet and aid in their efforts to help close the digital divide in rural America,” he said.
Tacoma’s Downtown Marriott partners with Mobilitie to ramp up 5G connectivity
A 5G, state-of-the-art wireless network is coming to Marriott’s new Tacoma Downtown hotel in Washington. Marriott is partnering with Mobilitie, the nation’s largest privately-held wireless infrastructure firm, to bring 5G wireless capabilities to the property.
The hotel, opened in November of 2020, has 304 rooms across 22 floors. The Greater Tacoma Convention Center is directly connected to the hotel and has been named one of North America’s top convention centers. In addition to connecting the hotel to 5G, Mobilitie has more than 130 distributed antenna systems and 190 wireless access points installed in both the Convention and Trade Center, as well as in the nearby 23,000 seat Tacoma Dome arena.
“Building a reliable wireless connection is a big part of the amenities we wish to provide, and we’re excited for guests to enjoy high-speed connectivity in our new luxurious hotel,” said Ben Osgood of Marriott Tacoma Downtown. “Mobilitie’s work will help ensure our guests have access to a quality 5G connection during important business meetings, trade shows and even relaxing leisure time,” he added.
“It’s been a pleasure building a relationship with the Marriott Tacoma Downtown team as we prepare to provide one of its newest properties with a reliable and trusted network,” said Rebecca Onaitis, national director of wireless solutions for Mobilitie. “We’re looking forward to expanding our footprint in the great city of Tacoma as we seek to help keep all of Pacific Northwest locals and visitors connected,” she added.