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Verizon, Google, others form Edison Alliance to tackle digital divide

Top executives from behemoths like Verizon, Mastercard, Vista Equity Partners and Google announced the formation of the Edison Alliance to expand connectivity globally.

The effort is housed within the World Economic Forum, which meets this week in Davos, Switzerland. The alliance's acronym means "Essential Digital Infrastructure and Services Network," and its goal is to "ensure an unprecedented level of cross-sectoral collaboration between the technology industry and other critical sectors of the economy."

"I've long believed that mobility, broadband and cloud services are the 21st century's infrastructure, but to use them to their greatest impact, we need to galvanize both the private and the public sectors," said Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg in a release. Vestberg is the chairman of the new alliance. "This is a critical moment for leaders across all sectors to join forces and recognize access and affordability to digital services as a top priority for recovery in every country."

The alliance seeks to connect private efforts with public officials worldwide to bring affordable broadband to an estimated 3.6 billion people. "These 'connectivity deserts' hamper access to health, education, and economic inclusion," the alliance argued.

Thus, the alliance includes "partners" from telecom companies like American Tower, Nokia and Ericsson but also financiers such as David Grain of Grain Management and those in the healthcare industry, such as Shobana Kamineni of Apollo Hospitals.

The group is not the first to target the issue, of course, but it certainly leverages the kind of financial firepower and influence that could produce results. The association scheduled meetings throughout 2021. It did not provide any details about the types of technologies it might use to reach its goals; that's noteworthy considering companies like SpaceX and OneWeb have pledged to reach unconnected areas of the world with their burgeoning constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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