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Business aims to address 'digital divide' in Colorado Springs

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Posted at 5:36 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 10:43:42-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — It's what brings so many people together and within the last year and a half, it's become a necessity for workers and students, high-speed internet.

"The importance of having access to get a quality education is critical," Colorado Springs School District 11 Board President Shawn Gullixson said, "we had many families connecting to the internet in the parking lots of our school buildings during COVID or sitting in the parking lot of McDonald's to do homework and we simply want to create a safer space for them to do that."

Lawmakers and businesses alike are working to address what's known as the "digital divide" or the inequities in getting access to computers and the internet.

"Every city in this country has had to confront this reality that people have to have access information at the home as well as in the workplace at the school," Bob Thompson, CEO/Founder of Underline, a new company bringing an open-access fiber network to Colorado Springs said.

"Remote work, distributed learning, distributed medicine, these were trends that were already beginning to unfold but the pandemic brought them forward in time," Thompson said.

The open-access network gives people a choice for internet providers. Basically, it gives the infrastructure for providers to then offer internet services for people. Making it the first open-access network for its speeds in the country.

The initial phase for the business will be focused on downtown Colorado Springs. Which includes about 24,000 homes and thousands of businesses. The company plans to partner with Colorado Springs School District 11 to give students access to the school's network from the comfort of their homes.

"There's a bunch of complexity to that but the simple outcome of it is very straightforward, a schoolgirl in a D11 school could be sitting at her kitchen table in her apartment and might as well be sitting in the library," Thompson said.

Residents in downtown Colorado Springs could be using the service within the next couple of months.