RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Cisco is investing $20 million to open the Rural Broadband Innovation Center, which will be based in RTP, to showcase what rural service providers can provide to customers through their networks.

According to a statement from the company, the facility was coordinated and funded through the Cisco Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) Program, and is one of more than 1,000 active or completed projects in 40 countries that encourages innovation.

A 2019 study from the Pew Research Center found that rural residents are 12 percent less likely than Americans overall to have broadband access at their homes, and nearly 1 in 4 reported that access to high-speed internet connection was still a major problem for them.

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The goal of Cisco’s Rural Broadband Innovation Center is to bridge the gap “between commercial viability of technology solutions offered by service providers and the cost of serving rural Americans,” according to the company’s statement.  “The solutions showcased in the Center simplify the architecture and operations for network infrastructure, which redefines capital and operating expenditures.”

Ultimately, the changing economics of innovation are allowing for more reliable internet connectivity, no matter a person’s location, the company indicates.

A few of these innovations are highlighted at the Rural Broadband Internet Centers, including the below technologies, as written in a blog post from the company:

Infrastructure as Code/Automation: One of the biggest barriers to delivering rural broadband services more cost-effectively is a reliance on antiquated, highly manual network provisioning and configuration models—and the high likelihood of errors that come with them. Today, service providers are exploring “infrastructure as code,” treating network functions as software rather than physical appliances, so they can deploy and change infrastructure configurations more quickly, accurately, and inexpensively.

Disaggregating network functions to enable any use case: See how the latest virtualization and disaggregation techniques move network functions from dedicated hardware to general-purpose servers, where they can be managed and scaled elastically like any other cloud service.

TDM-to-IP: Learn how TDM-to-IP solutions can build a bridge from your legacy networking technologies to new ones. You can drive down the power, cooling, and rack space requirements of legacy TDM equipment by virtualizing those capabilities and shifting them to more compact, efficient IP infrastructure. This eliminates the need to maintain separate infrastructures for TDM and IP services while freeing up significant backhaul bandwidth—a huge benefit in rural regions.