Pelz-Sharpe said the nationwide push toward cloud and mobile work due to the COVID-19 pandemic has further prompted interest in ensuring that all Americans have internet access. Still, the underlying internet infrastructure has not had the investment necessary to support and drive such a transformation, he said.

While roughly 90% of Americans have access to the internet, the speed, quality and cost of that service varies widely, he added.

“Many rural areas are underserved; some remain essentially off the grid,” he said. “Equally, the high cost has meant many are unable to afford it.”

Innovation Award Winners 2023