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Broadband Mapping

Brian Mefford: A Radical and Realistic Approach to Rural Broadband Mapping

Broadband Breakfast Staff

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Brian Mefford, Vice President of Broadband Strategy at Vetro, Inc.

When America built our railroads and highways, paper maps were updated continuously with feedback from the edge of the networks that provided regular status updates. When reports of obstacles were relayed (go through a mountain or around it, as an example) then strategists, managers, builders, policy-makers and locals could collaborate and adapt.

Today, we can use cloud-based software to ingest a full stack of geographic, demographic and relevant network inputs (from both the physical and logical layers of the network), so that we have a real-time view of our progress towards closing the digital divide once and for all.

In order for this to happen, we must flip the mapping model on its head so that we devote resources to mapping that directly support building the networks of the future to fill the gaps of today.

Prior to the pandemic there was broad agreement in the U.S. that the nation’s approach to broadband mapping was broken. The DATA Act should go a long way in dealing with much of the brokenness but, timing-wise, it couldn’t fully seize on the now-universal realizations of extreme rural broadband deficiencies laid bare by the pandemic.

The crisis created by COVID provides a call to action for a practical solution for the digital divide that provides real-time data insights. This need not be complicated.

Communities and states across the U.S. deserve broadband mapping that generates real-time broadband intelligence that not only informs funding decisions but also tracks network construction with full transparency and accountability.

This approach would create the proverbial triple win: good for citizens when the prospect of better connectivity is demystified; good for granting agencies who need a contextual “dashboard” view of funding applications, projects in-process and lit networks resulting from their funding; and good for internet service providers who increasingly need a simpler way to interface with and report to grantors and the public.

Consistent with South Carolina Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn’s H.R. 7302 – the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act – such an approach would enable a “central database to track the construction and use of and access to any broadband service infrastructure built using any Federal support.”

Federal and state government entities responsible for investing public broadband dollars must be able to follow the money in order to optimize for the greatest impact possible. As a benefit for companies building networks with public funds, they should receive the proper additional incentives for investing in the tools that will support a higher level of real-time status tracking of their network expansion.

Pandemic has heightened the urgency to build high-speed symmetrical connections

The urgency of the pandemic should call us to stop obsessing over the soft edges of the “served/unserved” parts of our maps. Choose a reasonably future-proofed threshold (designate a minimum 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) symmetrical connection, for instance) and declare anything beyond those bounds as unserved. Then we can focus public funding towards providers willing to build out services within the gap areas and who will provide the ability for the public to track the status of their progress

For providers, the payoff on customer acquisition will more than sufficiently offset any competitive risk of oversharing, particularly when their network construction costs to build out hard-to-reach areas are being offset with subsidies. A fraction of provided public funding can support the ISPs adoption of a standard network funding proposal and tracking schema which can be integrated into an existing system or embraced as a new innovation in planning, designing and building a network.

By carving out funding for network builders to invest in more innovative tools for planning, designing, building and operating their networks, public funding will also create an impetus for new service provider entrants. It will speed up the pace of deployment and it will create an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability about what is being built with public dollars.

Such an approach will create greater visibility into the impact of programs, policies and funding of new broadband network construction and will provide a more nimble environment for making meaningful adjustments that will help us to more efficiently bridge the gaps.

Brian Mefford is Vice President of Broadband Strategy and Head of the Digital Divide Practice at Vetro, Inc. Formerly he founded Connected Nation and served most recently as the head of innovation and entrepreneurship for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Broadband Mapping

Closing Digital Divide Starts With Accurate Maps, Says Gigi Sohn

Samuel Triginelli

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Screenshot of Gigi Sohn from the webinar

When America built our railroads and highways, paper maps were updated continuously with feedback from the edge of the networks that provided regular status updates. When reports of obstacles were relayed (go through a mountain or around it, as an example) then strategists, managers, builders, policy-makers and locals could collaborate and adapt.

Today, we can use cloud-based software to ingest a full stack of geographic, demographic and relevant network inputs (from both the physical and logical layers of the network), so that we have a real-time view of our progress towards closing the digital divide once and for all.

In order for this to happen, we must flip the mapping model on its head so that we devote resources to mapping that directly support building the networks of the future to fill the gaps of today.

Prior to the pandemic there was broad agreement in the U.S. that the nation’s approach to broadband mapping was broken. The DATA Act should go a long way in dealing with much of the brokenness but, timing-wise, it couldn’t fully seize on the now-universal realizations of extreme rural broadband deficiencies laid bare by the pandemic.

The crisis created by COVID provides a call to action for a practical solution for the digital divide that provides real-time data insights. This need not be complicated.

Communities and states across the U.S. deserve broadband mapping that generates real-time broadband intelligence that not only informs funding decisions but also tracks network construction with full transparency and accountability.

This approach would create the proverbial triple win: good for citizens when the prospect of better connectivity is demystified; good for granting agencies who need a contextual “dashboard” view of funding applications, projects in-process and lit networks resulting from their funding; and good for internet service providers who increasingly need a simpler way to interface with and report to grantors and the public.

Consistent with South Carolina Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn’s H.R. 7302 – the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act – such an approach would enable a “central database to track the construction and use of and access to any broadband service infrastructure built using any Federal support.”

Federal and state government entities responsible for investing public broadband dollars must be able to follow the money in order to optimize for the greatest impact possible. As a benefit for companies building networks with public funds, they should receive the proper additional incentives for investing in the tools that will support a higher level of real-time status tracking of their network expansion.

Pandemic has heightened the urgency to build high-speed symmetrical connections

The urgency of the pandemic should call us to stop obsessing over the soft edges of the “served/unserved” parts of our maps. Choose a reasonably future-proofed threshold (designate a minimum 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) symmetrical connection, for instance) and declare anything beyond those bounds as unserved. Then we can focus public funding towards providers willing to build out services within the gap areas and who will provide the ability for the public to track the status of their progress

For providers, the payoff on customer acquisition will more than sufficiently offset any competitive risk of oversharing, particularly when their network construction costs to build out hard-to-reach areas are being offset with subsidies. A fraction of provided public funding can support the ISPs adoption of a standard network funding proposal and tracking schema which can be integrated into an existing system or embraced as a new innovation in planning, designing and building a network.

By carving out funding for network builders to invest in more innovative tools for planning, designing, building and operating their networks, public funding will also create an impetus for new service provider entrants. It will speed up the pace of deployment and it will create an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability about what is being built with public dollars.

Such an approach will create greater visibility into the impact of programs, policies and funding of new broadband network construction and will provide a more nimble environment for making meaningful adjustments that will help us to more efficiently bridge the gaps.

Brian Mefford is Vice President of Broadband Strategy and Head of the Digital Divide Practice at Vetro, Inc. Formerly he founded Connected Nation and served most recently as the head of innovation and entrepreneurship for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband Data

New Broadband Mapping Fabric Will Help Unify Geocoding Across the Broadband Industry, Experts Say

Tim White

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Photo of Lynn Follansbee from October 2019 by Drew Clark

When America built our railroads and highways, paper maps were updated continuously with feedback from the edge of the networks that provided regular status updates. When reports of obstacles were relayed (go through a mountain or around it, as an example) then strategists, managers, builders, policy-makers and locals could collaborate and adapt.

Today, we can use cloud-based software to ingest a full stack of geographic, demographic and relevant network inputs (from both the physical and logical layers of the network), so that we have a real-time view of our progress towards closing the digital divide once and for all.

In order for this to happen, we must flip the mapping model on its head so that we devote resources to mapping that directly support building the networks of the future to fill the gaps of today.

Prior to the pandemic there was broad agreement in the U.S. that the nation’s approach to broadband mapping was broken. The DATA Act should go a long way in dealing with much of the brokenness but, timing-wise, it couldn’t fully seize on the now-universal realizations of extreme rural broadband deficiencies laid bare by the pandemic.

The crisis created by COVID provides a call to action for a practical solution for the digital divide that provides real-time data insights. This need not be complicated.

Communities and states across the U.S. deserve broadband mapping that generates real-time broadband intelligence that not only informs funding decisions but also tracks network construction with full transparency and accountability.

This approach would create the proverbial triple win: good for citizens when the prospect of better connectivity is demystified; good for granting agencies who need a contextual “dashboard” view of funding applications, projects in-process and lit networks resulting from their funding; and good for internet service providers who increasingly need a simpler way to interface with and report to grantors and the public.

Consistent with South Carolina Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn’s H.R. 7302 – the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act – such an approach would enable a “central database to track the construction and use of and access to any broadband service infrastructure built using any Federal support.”

Federal and state government entities responsible for investing public broadband dollars must be able to follow the money in order to optimize for the greatest impact possible. As a benefit for companies building networks with public funds, they should receive the proper additional incentives for investing in the tools that will support a higher level of real-time status tracking of their network expansion.

Pandemic has heightened the urgency to build high-speed symmetrical connections

The urgency of the pandemic should call us to stop obsessing over the soft edges of the “served/unserved” parts of our maps. Choose a reasonably future-proofed threshold (designate a minimum 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) symmetrical connection, for instance) and declare anything beyond those bounds as unserved. Then we can focus public funding towards providers willing to build out services within the gap areas and who will provide the ability for the public to track the status of their progress

For providers, the payoff on customer acquisition will more than sufficiently offset any competitive risk of oversharing, particularly when their network construction costs to build out hard-to-reach areas are being offset with subsidies. A fraction of provided public funding can support the ISPs adoption of a standard network funding proposal and tracking schema which can be integrated into an existing system or embraced as a new innovation in planning, designing and building a network.

By carving out funding for network builders to invest in more innovative tools for planning, designing, building and operating their networks, public funding will also create an impetus for new service provider entrants. It will speed up the pace of deployment and it will create an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability about what is being built with public dollars.

Such an approach will create greater visibility into the impact of programs, policies and funding of new broadband network construction and will provide a more nimble environment for making meaningful adjustments that will help us to more efficiently bridge the gaps.

Brian Mefford is Vice President of Broadband Strategy and Head of the Digital Divide Practice at Vetro, Inc. Formerly he founded Connected Nation and served most recently as the head of innovation and entrepreneurship for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband Data

GOP Grills FCC on Improving Broadband Mapping Now, as Agency Spells Out New Rules

Tim White

Published

on

Photo of former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at the March 2019 launch of US Telecom’s mapping initiative by Drew Clark

When America built our railroads and highways, paper maps were updated continuously with feedback from the edge of the networks that provided regular status updates. When reports of obstacles were relayed (go through a mountain or around it, as an example) then strategists, managers, builders, policy-makers and locals could collaborate and adapt.

Today, we can use cloud-based software to ingest a full stack of geographic, demographic and relevant network inputs (from both the physical and logical layers of the network), so that we have a real-time view of our progress towards closing the digital divide once and for all.

In order for this to happen, we must flip the mapping model on its head so that we devote resources to mapping that directly support building the networks of the future to fill the gaps of today.

Prior to the pandemic there was broad agreement in the U.S. that the nation’s approach to broadband mapping was broken. The DATA Act should go a long way in dealing with much of the brokenness but, timing-wise, it couldn’t fully seize on the now-universal realizations of extreme rural broadband deficiencies laid bare by the pandemic.

The crisis created by COVID provides a call to action for a practical solution for the digital divide that provides real-time data insights. This need not be complicated.

Communities and states across the U.S. deserve broadband mapping that generates real-time broadband intelligence that not only informs funding decisions but also tracks network construction with full transparency and accountability.

This approach would create the proverbial triple win: good for citizens when the prospect of better connectivity is demystified; good for granting agencies who need a contextual “dashboard” view of funding applications, projects in-process and lit networks resulting from their funding; and good for internet service providers who increasingly need a simpler way to interface with and report to grantors and the public.

Consistent with South Carolina Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn’s H.R. 7302 – the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act – such an approach would enable a “central database to track the construction and use of and access to any broadband service infrastructure built using any Federal support.”

Federal and state government entities responsible for investing public broadband dollars must be able to follow the money in order to optimize for the greatest impact possible. As a benefit for companies building networks with public funds, they should receive the proper additional incentives for investing in the tools that will support a higher level of real-time status tracking of their network expansion.

Pandemic has heightened the urgency to build high-speed symmetrical connections

The urgency of the pandemic should call us to stop obsessing over the soft edges of the “served/unserved” parts of our maps. Choose a reasonably future-proofed threshold (designate a minimum 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) symmetrical connection, for instance) and declare anything beyond those bounds as unserved. Then we can focus public funding towards providers willing to build out services within the gap areas and who will provide the ability for the public to track the status of their progress

For providers, the payoff on customer acquisition will more than sufficiently offset any competitive risk of oversharing, particularly when their network construction costs to build out hard-to-reach areas are being offset with subsidies. A fraction of provided public funding can support the ISPs adoption of a standard network funding proposal and tracking schema which can be integrated into an existing system or embraced as a new innovation in planning, designing and building a network.

By carving out funding for network builders to invest in more innovative tools for planning, designing, building and operating their networks, public funding will also create an impetus for new service provider entrants. It will speed up the pace of deployment and it will create an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability about what is being built with public dollars.

Such an approach will create greater visibility into the impact of programs, policies and funding of new broadband network construction and will provide a more nimble environment for making meaningful adjustments that will help us to more efficiently bridge the gaps.

Brian Mefford is Vice President of Broadband Strategy and Head of the Digital Divide Practice at Vetro, Inc. Formerly he founded Connected Nation and served most recently as the head of innovation and entrepreneurship for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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