Goal: Broadband for everyone by 2030
One of the more ambitious goals of the Office of Planning and Development is for the entire CNMI to achieve universal access to the internet by 2030.
OPD director Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong and Peter Dresslar, senior adviser for Broadband and Digital Equity, outlined this goal during a presentation at the weekly Rotary Club of Saipan meeting last Tuesday at the Giovanni’s Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Saipan.
To lay the groundwork for this goal, Ogumoro-Uludong said that one of their plans that they intend to achieve by the end of the year is to “obtain complete coverage maps for…broadband coverage and work with the Department of Commerce to update Central Statistics Division survey data, specific to internet accessibility to support planning efforts that include subsidy programs, or community connection hubs to ensuring that all residents [in] Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, and eventually the Northern Islands, have enhanced access to the internet through broadband or wireless connection by 2030.”
“Broadband is a special kind of internet. Broadband is internet that is always on, it’s always connected, and it’s fast,” said Dresslar.
He said they have created four programs in order to achieve this end. The four are Community Pillars, Marianas Broadband Outreach, Digital Equity Programs, and CNMI Broadband Strategy.
Dresslar explained that Community Pillars is “is developing spaces in places where people can connect for free to the internet and communicate with their families or do work—whatever it is they need to do. We know that not every resident of the CNMI has an awesome place at home to get access to the internet or do work on the internet, and so we’re talking about spaces in places with our anchor institutions to provide that place where people can actually go and get access.”
Dresslar said they are now working with eight institutions around the CNMI, including building Wi-Fi enabled parking lots and multipurpose buildings. The Joeten-Kiyu Public Library’s WiFi-enabled book mobile project is also in the works.
Dresslar also announced that their office will partner with the Division of Youth Services by the end of the year “in Tanapag, Kagman, and a third youth center…to put up free WiFi in our pilot phase, hopefully at the end of this month. While that’s happening, we’ll gather data about how people are using the WiFi, what times of the day, how does this affect traffic—there are a lot of variables that we want to get information about.”