Feature Story

Cisco's Rural Broadband Innovation Center showcases new internet economics for rural America

Cisco opens the Rural Broadband Innovation Center in North Carolina, to connect the unconnected in the U.S. through innovative technology solutions.
Jun 16, 2021

By: Jonathan Davidson, Cisco SVP and General Manager, Mass-Scale Infrastructure Group & Guy Diedrich, Cisco VP and Global Innovation Officer

Connecting the Unconnected

Rural areas have struggled for years with slow or unreliable internet access. Some have not had access to the internet at all. This is especially true for the 18 million Americans living in rural areas without access to a broadband network. This lack of access continues to present barriers to economic opportunity. Connecting the unconnected remains a challenge in equality, laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a global technology company, Cisco is committed to relentless innovation and thorough collaboration to power an inclusive future where everyone can securely access the economic, educational, and health opportunities they need.

The Risks of a Digital Divide

The level of broadband connectivity available to an individual or household can greatly affect the quality of education, healthcare, and employment opportunities they receive. It can also hinder their ability to access other critical public services. As the world begins to move toward operating in a hybrid physical and virtual environment, those living in rural areas are at significant risk of being left behind by the accelerating disparities of the digital divide.

The network that connects us must be continually reimagined to carry us into the future. Cisco is using technology innovation, in areas like Silicon and Optics, to change the economics of the internet. By reducing what it costs to build and operate networks, we can empower service and internet providers to create a more pervasive internet, enabling more people to be connected across the world.

Cisco Rural Broadband Innovation Center

We’re excited to open the Cisco Rural Broadband Innovation Center in North Carolina, a $20 million strategic investment to showcase our commitment to connect the unconnected in the U.S. through innovative technology solutions. The Center was coordinated and funded through the Cisco Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) Program, a unique and agile platform for Cisco investment and co-innovation for critical projects across the globe. With over 1,000 active or completed projects in 40 countries, CDA works with government leadership to encourage innovation.

Through the Center, Cisco is committed to bridging the gap between commercial viability of technology solutions offered by service providers and the cost of serving rural Americans. The solutions showcased in the Center simplify the architecture and operations for network infrastructure, which redefines capital and operating expenditures. The Center provides demonstrations of Cisco technologies that are changing the economics of the internet, making reliable connectivity more accessible to everyone.

Connecting More People in More Places

The Center demonstrates how Cisco can help service providers connect, secure, and automate their networks to deliver essential connectivity with dramatically reduced investments, making it easier to expand broadband access to more rural areas. Cisco is no stranger to rural broadband network solutions, and has been working with service providers across the world to tackle their most challenging problems. Service providers can rest assured that by working closely with Cisco, they can begin to connect more people in more places. For example, through CDA, Cisco has worked with the City of Dallas, TX; the City of Toronto, Canada; the State of Arizona; and several local governments in Michigan, to provide Wi-Fi access and cloud security technology to high-need communities.

Cost-Effective Broadband Networking

With traditional networks, service providers are typically spending $5 to operate infrastructure (OpEx) for every $1 they spend buying infrastructure (CapEx). In contrast, most web and hyper-scalers are spending $2.5 in OpEx for every $1 they spend in CapEx. Scale helps, but even some of the largest service providers with large scale have the highest ratios of OpEx to CapEx. An automation-first approach is what makes the biggest difference. New architectures such as Routed Optical Networking can significantly reduce the total cost of ownership nearly in half (46%).

At a lower-cost-per subscriber, Cisco is delivering a new generation of network infrastructure technologies that provide more capacity and greater flexibility. Some of the solutions that are highlighted in the Center are: Cisco’s routing and optical platforms, including the new Cisco Routed Optical Networking solution; Cisco 8000 Series Routers powered by Cisco Silicon One; Cisco Crosswork Network Automation; Cisco Cloud Services Stack, providing a validated Telco Cloud environment; and its service provider network automation and security solutions. 

Cisco’s purpose is to use technology to power an inclusive future. Lowering the cost of what it takes to build and run the internet is mission-critical to make internet access equitable for all.

Scheduling a Visit

Schedule a visit to the Rural Broadband Innovation Center today if you are ready to experience the new generation of Cisco broadband solutions.


Learn more: