Pioneering Fast and Affordable Broadband for the Underserved


(Raoul Lowery Contreras) - Joe Costello did not expect to be pioneering the next era of internet equity, but this passionate entrepreneur finds himself on the frontlines of the Digital Divide. With his company Kwikbit, Costello, a successful entrepreneur, is empowering underserved and unserved mobile home communities by deploying cutting-edge internet service through a price model infused with empathy. Costello sees a world where everyone has fast, inexpensive internet - he believes that it's a utility and should be treated as such.

Kwikbit is doing its part by expanding its impact on communities large and small, including over 20,000 mobile homes across ten states. By the end of 2024, Costello aims to be on the ground with this 1 gigabit symmetrical internet in over 150 parks, adding 10,000 residents to their service. The company will also receive funds from the California Public Utilities Commission to pilot a program to serve hundreds of unserved mobile homes. Kwikbit and Costello are a testament to what it means to be an entrepreneur in the 21st century. 

Early in his career, Costello understood a critical problem with rapidly evolving technology: the fastest and best products first reach the most privileged communities. In the 1990s, mainly the wealthy and tech enthusiasts could access the internet through cable or DSL. As search engines emerged and computers became affordable, more people slowly adopted the technology. Luckily, this broadband could be used and supplied through existing infrastructure. But over the next two decades, through the evolution of the internet from search engines to smartphones, the public caught on to the incredible possibilities of a global online network and demand increased significantly. 

The internet story signifies a remarkable transformation. What began as a specialized tool for a select few has become an indispensable part of most people's lives. This shift has had a profound impact, enriching our experiences and propelling society towards greater productivity and efficiency. 

The internet's exponential growth, particularly the rise of video-heavy applications, has exposed a critical limitation: speed. The infrastructure that fueled the initial internet boom simply can't handle the demands of today's data-hungry apps. 

The current solution pushed by major internet providers is fiber optic cables. Fiber offers the blazing-fast speeds needed for the next generation of internet, through light transmission. However, widespread fiber deployment presents a significant obstacle: the lack of existing fiber optic cables reaching individual homes. Implementing this technology will require massive investments, posing a complex challenge for the future of internet infrastructure. 

"Yes, we want to have the fastest fiber cable in every home and business in America. But what people don't realize is that it's going to take decades for fiber to roll out, and they're going to need something else in the meantime," said Costello in a recent interview.

Unfortunately, as fiber optic internet is made available, the wealthy communities are receiving the new capability first. This creates an enormous problem for our country because entire communities, particularly low-income communities, are being left behind. 

"You cannot be a functional citizen of the US in the 2020s unless you have high-speed internet," said Costello. "You will fall behind in every way – opportunities, information, finances, civic engagement, healthcare, and education. And your kids will fall behind even more!"

Costello's passion for bridging the digital divide catalyzed the founding of Kwikbit Internet.  It started with the development of a new super high-speed wireless technology that can provide the same kind of fast internet service as fiber while being able to be deployed much more quickly and economically. This new wireless technology is called WiGig, or 60 GHz Wi-Fi.

During the pandemic, when many people were suffering from a lack of viable internet, Costello decided that the new technology should be utilized to serve the unserved and underserved. There are many communities that need better internet, but mobile home parks represent one very large group. Kwikbit Internet is 100% focused on providing its high-speed internet to mobile home parks with the goal of letting no mobile home park resident go without this critical new utility.  If all mobile home residents lived in one state, it would be the third largest in the country.

Thankfully, the government has been stepping in to help bridge the digital divide in a number of ways. One of the most successful programs has been the Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, which partially subsidizes internet bills for more than 20 million low-income households, with more than half of recipients being over 50 years old. Ironically, just as the federal government is funding a new program with $42 Billion to bring fiber to more underserved users, Congress is pulling the plug on the ACP. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is one senator advocating for the ACP's termination, though Texas has the 4th largest number of ACP recipients at 1.67 million households. 

As the ACP's fate remains uncertain, the Digital Divide widens. 

Fortunately, some states are working to support broadband expansion. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is using federal funds to build broadband for all, including over $800,000 to Kwikbit for deploying its fixed wireless internet in unserved mobile home parks in Southern California. 

From California to Florida, mobile home parks and hard-to-reach communities have a clear need that has only deepened with rising internet costs. 

Kwikbit is blazing a trail toward the promise of the internet for all, one community at a time. Closing the Digital Divide takes tenacity. The time for an all-of-the-above broadband investment strategy is now, one that includes wireless gigabit and fiber technology creating a new era of internet access for those who need it most.