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Shouldn't FCC Rules Over Indecency Just Grow Up? Reflections on Free Speech and Converging Media

WASHINGTON, November 4 – This article, “TV Has Grown Up. Shouldn’t FCC Rules?” first appeared in the Washington Post Outlook section on Sunday, May 16, 2004, or nearly four-and-a-half years ago. It remains more relevant today than ever: the Supreme Court is today considering Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Station, a case about whether the FCC acted properly in sanctioning Fox over the use of the words “fuck” and “shit” on broadcast television.

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Editor’s Note: This article of mine, “TV Has Grown Up. Shouldn’t FCC Rules?” first appeared in the Washington Post Outlook section on Sunday, May 16, 2004, or nearly four-and-a-half years ago. It remains more relevant today than ever: the Supreme Court is today considering Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Station, a case about whether the FCC acted properly in sanctioning Fox over the use of the words “fuck” and “shit” on broadcast television. (November 4, 2008)

We Americans have always been on intimate terms with our televisions. They sit in our living rooms. They keep us company. They show us family values, from “I Love Lucy” to “All in the Family” to “The Cosby Show.” So it seems only natural that if our TV friends misbehaved by speaking foul language or showing too much skin, they would be in trouble — perhaps even grounded — very quickly.

Television and radio have always occupied a unique space in the nation’s public conversation, and politicians going back to at least Franklin Roosevelt and his “fireside chats” have understood the power of the electronic soapbox. Part of its influence came from an inherent limitation: The finite number of broadcast frequencies. That led the government to create the Federal Communications Commission, which regulated who could and couldn’t use the airwaves. The FCC also developed rules on what broadcasters couldn’t say.

But now our televisions and radios have grown up, and they have gotten married to all sorts of other electronic devices and technologies. These marriages are producing multimedia offspring that bear little or no resemblance to the bulky boxes of yesterday. This “convergence” of various technologies, as this trend is known in the industry, renders obsolete many of the rules that have governed broadcasting for decades.

It no longer makes any sense to impose one set of rules on the “over-the-air” networks while cable, Internet, satellite and music providers can send — almost unimpeded — all sorts of programming directly to your living room, car, laptop and even your cell phone.

Consider these three scenarios:

• A couple in Los Angeles — I’ll call them the TechnoYuppies — bought a 50-inch wide-screen plasma Gateway Media Center in March, just in time to watch the blood-soaked fifth season premiere of HBO’s “The Sopranos” in high-definition color and surround sound. With their $6,999 television-computer video player hooked up to Time Warner’s digital cable system, the family can also order many cable programs on demand — something their 3-year-old daughter likes because she doesn’t need to wait for the next “Scooby-Doo” on Cartoon Network. Mr. TechnoYuppie is particularly fond of the Media Center because it will allow him to access the Internet with a remote control and download episodes of “Fawlty Towers” (soon to be available on BBC’s Web site), which he will then be able to watch over the high-speed cable modem.

• Surfer Dude, a college student, used to tune into shock jock Howard Stern on a local radio station owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc., but when the FCC went after Stern for “indecency” a few months ago Clear Channel dropped Stern from its broadcasting stations. Surfer Dude hopes Stern will syndicate his show to satellite radio, where Stern can shock to his heart’s content. (In anticipation of such a deal, Surfer Dude recently installed a $260 Kenwood digital radio in his car and subscribed to the new Sirius satellite service.) Meanwhile, he spends drive time listening to Eminem’s uncut rap tracks on his Apple iPod, which he plays over his car radio with a $69 wireless transmitter.

• Mr. and Mrs. Protective Parents try to keep the influence of the media from their four children, ages 5 to 13. Unlike most Americans, this high-tech couple knows how to use the “V-chip” now included in all new televisions, and blocks all programs rated TV-14 or TV-MA. The family decided to enter the digital age in April, buying the RCA digital versatile disc player from Wal-Mart with parental controls by ClearPlay. The software is smart enough to skip over scenes of nudity or profanity in box-office hits such as “Terminator 3.”

Readers who think that these situations seem futuristic should realize that nothing is made up here except for the people. This plethora of viewing and listening choices demonstrates that the current debate over broadcast indecency standards is woefully out of touch with the realities of the digital world as we now know it — not to mention the world that is just over the horizon.

The TechnoYuppies are like 88 percent of current Americans who get cable or direct broadcast satellite services for more channels — and better reception — than they would from a broadcast tower. But unlike the traditional television and radio signals that pass over certain broadcast frequencies, satellite and wireless are “free speech” airwaves — they aren’t subject to the indecency standards that the FCC cited in going after Stern.

This glaring inconsistency has some legislators in Washington scratching their heads and wondering: Why doesn’t everyone live by the same rules?

Some say that cable and satellite are different because consumers have to pay for them. But broadcast and pay channels sit side by side in the electronic programming guide. “The average consumer doesn’t distinguish over-the-air television from cable or satellite,” says Texas Republican Joe Barton, the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. His vision? “If I can see it in my living room, and my grandson can click channels, the same rules of indecency apply.”

With the Senate about to debate a bill that would allow the FCC to boost its fines from $27,500 to $500,000, the answer to this question is vital and urgent. Whether you agree with Barton that all television and radio should be barred from transmitting what the government deems “indecent,” or whether you believe that all media should be free from such censorship, as I do, it seems clear that the current model has become unsustainable. That’s why the brief flash of Janet Jackson’s breast may be remembered decades from now not just as a silly show of bad taste, but as a defining moment in the country’s ongoing debate about free speech.

Congress began regulating broadcasters in 1927 on the grounds of scarcity. In return for free and exclusive use of a given wavelength, broadcasters agreed to serve the “public interest, convenience, and necessity” — or at least to do what Congress and the FCC ordered. One element of this agreement was a ban on obscene, indecent and profane language.

This scarcity theory has always lacked substance. Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase’s reputation is based, in part, on a notable paper he wrote in 1959 that criticized the rationale behind the FCC’s command and control regime of licensing broadcasters. “It is a commonplace of economics that almost all resources in the economic system (and not simply radio and television frequencies) are limited in amount and scarce, in that people would like to use more than exists,” Coase argued in his seminal essay.

But now technology has created new electromagnetic spectrum. Higher wavelengths than those used by traditional radio and television systems have been pressed into service for digital cellular telephones, wireless data connections, and satellite television and radios. The XM and Sirius satellite radio companies each offer hundreds of channels with less spectrum than all FM radio broadcasters combined. And cellular carriers now pack thousands of conversations on a channel that once served a single voice conversation.

Nonetheless, “scarcity” remains the foundation of a bifurcated jurisprudence. Newspapers, magazines, books and the Internet enjoy expansive First Amendment protections. Radio and broadcast television, defined as “public” properties, do not.

The Supreme Court accepted the scarcity theory in a 1943 case, when it upheld the FCC’s power to grant or deny privileges to electronic speakers. In 1969, the court went further, ruling in Red Lion v. FCC that scarcity required a Pennsylvania radio station to give free reply time to an author whose book was criticized over the air. Thus, the “fairness doctrine” was affirmed.

Then came the famous “seven dirty words” — comedian George Carlin’s 1973 satiric monologue about the seven words, as he put it, that “you couldn’t say on the public, ah, airwaves, um, the ones you definitely wouldn’t say, ever.” Except that the defiant and mischievous Carlin did say them on the radio — over and over and over again.

A father who heard the monologue in his car — with his young son along for the ride — complained to the FCC, which sanctioned the Pacifica station that carried Carlin’s monologue. In 1978, the Supreme Court said the monologue wasn’t obscene, but that it was “patently offensive.” The court ruled in FCC v. Pacifica that the pervasiveness of broadcasting, and its easy accessibility to children, justified the FCC’s authority to impose indecency limitations.

I don’t want my 4-year-old son to see crude or provocative shows when he turns on our television. I also don’t want him to see such material when he turns on our Internet-connected computer. Yet it would be impractical, as well as unconstitutional, for the government to set itself as the censor of cable, satellite and Internet content. It makes more much sense for consumers to determine what comes into their homes.

The technology exists for us to be masters of convergence — whether it’s a V-chip, or Internet and movie filters, or a blocking device that keeps out cable and satellite channels that we don’t want to see. And, of course, it doesn’t require technology to talk with our kids about viewing standards.

Within the next decade it will be impossible to distinguish between televisions and computers. More cable, satellite and high-speed broadband means that it is only a matter of time before all Americans get television over the Internet — wirelessly or through a pipe of fiber or copper. It’s time to recognize that Congress and the FCC can no longer be the nation’s “public interest” nanny. Instead of trying to preserve rules from a world that no longer exists, they would do better to encourage the development of tools that will let us regulate ourselves.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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Ron Yokubaitis: GOP Putting Partisanship over Reform with Gigi Sohn’s FCC Nomination

Nominated by President Biden as Federal Communications Commissioner, Sohn understands the real reason net neutrality is necessary.

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The author of the Expert Opinion is Ron Yokubaitis, CEO of Golden Frog

The Federal Communications Commission has persistently gotten communications wrong for the past 20 years, even before broadband was a thing.

The commission was supposed to oversee telecommunications networks while leaving the then-nascent internet alone for the most part, but they dropped the ball. Gigi Sohn is the right person to help the FCC get back to its open access roots.

The 1996 Congress envisioned an open, interconnected, interoperable and user-centric internet that offers users “control over the information they receive” and facilitates “diversity of political discourse.” Congress knew that these goals necessarily required an underlying telecommunications infrastructure that was also robustly competitive and itself open, interconnected and interoperable. That is why they enacted new laws basically adopting and extending the FCC’s even then longstanding Computer Inquiries regime that made the internet possible to begin with.

“Broadband” is now provided over fiber. Even broadband wireless requires fiber for backhaul. These are telecommunications facilities, that are – or should be – subject to the FCC’s regulatory jurisdiction. Firms providing fiber-based transmission for a fee are – or should be – common carriers. That, in turn, means they must interconnect, interoperate with and sell network access to other telecommunications carriers and those who provide information services on reasonable terms.

Computer Inquiry, the 1980s AT&T and GTE divestitures and the 1996 legislation all so required. But the FCC went rogue in the late 1990s. It allowed the dominant telephone and cable companies to close their local infrastructure, which allowed them to dominate mass-market internet access. The FCC purposefully killed most local market competition. Most independent internet service providers and competitive local exchange carriers were then forced out of business. Only a few major players still compete at the local level, and it is they who control mass-market “access to the internet” over “Broadband.”

Texas.net dueled early in the Lone Star state with Southwestern Bell

I started Texas.Net in 1994. We were one of the first independent ISPs in Texas. Southwestern Bell controlled the local network, and it soon started limiting our ability to get the lines we had to have so our customers could get to the internet. We turned to competitive local exchange carriers, and even became one ourselves.

SWBT and the other incumbent carriers convinced the FCC to limit competitors’ access to the last-mile connections serving homes and small businesses. The FCC refused to enforce its Time Warner Cable open access mandate. More than 7,000 independent ISPs were put out of business. That is why the telephone and cable companies now have a largely unregulated mass-market telecommunications and internet access duopoly.

“Net neutrality” was and is necessary only because of the FCC’s decision to close access to local infrastructure. America will continue to suffer high cost, rationed broadband telecommunications and internet for residential, small business, rural and high-cost customers for so long as the FCC allows and encourages the telephone and cable companies’ domination over local network access. The FCC must return to its “open access” roots.

Sohn is practical and willing to compromise in seeking bipartisan solutions

I have known Gigi Sohn since she led Public Knowledge. She understands that net neutrality is just a patch and the real solution is true open access to the underlying local telecommunications infrastructure. I certainly don’t agree with 100% of Sohn’s viewpoints, and we’ve told her so. But even when we disagree our voices are heard, understood and considered. She is practical and willing to compromise. She will seek bipartisan solutions to the real problem.

The Republicans’ effort to derail Gigi Sohn’s nomination to the FCC is misguided. All it does is cripple the FCC’s ability to return to its roots and do what is truly necessary to get America up to speed with the rest of the developed world when it comes to advanced infrastructure in general and internet ubiquity in particular. This is too important a moment for partisan gamesmanship. Billions of dollars and the connectivity of millions of Americans are at stake.

Sohn is the right person at the right moment in history. Her 30 years of experience in telecom, broadband and technology policy, her strong commitment to the First Amendment and diversity of viewpoints, and her work to promote a competitive environment where consumers are best served more than qualify her to be an FCC Commissioner.

Ron Yokubaitis is CEO of Golden Frog, a company dedicated to protecting internet privacy online, and a director of sister company Giganews, a global provider of Usenet. Both are headquartered in Austin, Texas. This Expert Opinion 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 reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Christopher Mitchell: Treasury Department Rescue Plan Act Rules Improve Broadband Funding

The Treasury Department has resolved all of the concerns that the Institute for Local Self Reliance identified in May.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Chris Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Communities across the United States got an unexpected gift from the Biden Administration last week in the form of additional flexibility to use Rescue Plan funds for needed broadband investments, particularly those focused on low-income neighborhoods in urban areas.

When Congress developed and passed the American Rescue Plan Act, it tasked the Treasury Department with writing the rules for some key programs, including the State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). That program is distributing $350 billion to local and state governments, which can use it for a variety of purposes that include broadband infrastructure and digital inclusion efforts.

Treasury released an Interim Final Rule in May, 2021, detailing how local governments would be allowed to invest in broadband. I promptly freaked out, at the restrictions and complications that I (and others) feared would result in local governments backing away from needed broadband investments due to fears of being out of compliance with the rule.

After we worked with numerous local leaders and the National League of Cities to explain the problems we saw in the proposed rule, Treasury released updated guidance in the form of a Q&A document to explain how local governments would be able to build and partner for needed networks.

Given the many challenges the Biden Administration has had to deal with, we did not expect significant new changes to the Rescue Plan rules around the SLFRF. But after many months of deliberations, the Treasury Department has resolved all of the concerns that we identified as areas of concern in May.

As we explain below, local governments have wide latitude to use SLFRF funds for a variety of needed broadband infrastructure investments, especially to resolve affordability challenges.

Summary and TL;DR

The rest of this post will cover some key points in the Final Rule with references to the text in the hopes that it will help communities better understand their options and share key passages with their advisers and attorneys.

The SLFRF Final Rule weighs in at just under 500 pages and comes with an overview. The overview focuses on broadband on pages 39-40 and includes this summary toward the beginning:

Recipients may fund high-speed broadband infrastructure in areas of need that the recipient identifies, such as areas without access to adequate speeds, affordable options, or where connections are inconsistent or unreliable; completed projects must participate in a low-income subsidy program.

The relevant broadband infrastructure sections of the final rule are on pages 260-264 and 294-313. Pages 85-90 focus on digital inclusion, which is relevant and overlapping depending on community plans.

In general, the SLFRF has simplified the rules to give more flexibility to state and local governments (across all of the eligible uses, not just broadband infrastructure). The original rule focused on areas lacking reliable 25/3 Mbps service – with a big focus on the word “reliable.” But there is no mention of 25/3 in the Final Rule.

Local governments do still have to make a determination that they are building the network to solve one of the problems that SLFRF uses as a trigger to allow broadband infrastructure investments, but they do not have to get approval from Treasury or any other entity. More detail below, but the triggers include lack of access to a reliable 100/100 connection or lack of access to affordable broadband service.

Any network built with SLFRF must be designed to deliver 100 Mbps download and upload, with the ability to do only 100/20 Mbps in some situations. That is the same as in the Interim Final Rule but now networks must also support the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) for as long as the program exists.

Qualifying to Use SLFRF for Broadband Infrastructure

Treasury set the tone for the revisions by noting on page 261:

  • Treasury recognizes that there may be a need for improvements to broadband beyond those households and businesses with limited existing service as defined in the interim final rule.

This was a primary concern we heard from cities back in May – that the focus on served/unserved/underserved based on available broadband speeds did not adequately address the problems they faced, even with a strong caveat about reliability.

Cities may have 100 percent high-speed cable coverage but still have neighborhoods where many people are not able to access a broadband Internet connection due to challenges common to impoverished households. Treasury listened to these comments and adjusted the Rule (page 302 – emphasis added):

  • The final rule expands eligible areas for investment by requiring recipients to invest in projects designed to provide service to households and businesses with an identified need for additional broadband infrastructure investment. Recipients have flexibility to identify a need for additional broadband infrastructure investment: examples of need include lack of access to a connection that reliably meets or exceeds symmetrical 100 Mbps download and upload speeds, lack of affordable access to broadband service, or lack of reliable broadband service. Recipients are encouraged to prioritize projects that are designed to provide service to locations not currently served by a wireline connection that reliably delivers at least 100 Mbps of download speed and 20 Mbps of upload speed, as many commenters indicated that those without such service constitute hard-to-reach areas in need of subsidized broadband deployment.

Local governments need to identify areas where at least some households lack high-speed services, or lack affordable access, or lack reliable broadband Internet service. As Treasury has made very clear, not every housing unit served by a network has to meet this condition (pages 302-303 emphasis added):

  • Households and businesses with an identified need for additional broadband  infrastructure investment do not have to be the only ones in the service area served by an eligible broadband infrastructure project. Indeed, serving these households and businesses may require a holistic approach that provides service to a wider area, for example, in order to make ongoing service of certain households or businesses within the service area economical.

We believe that a good source of data that can demonstrate an affordability or other problem that justifies broadband investment is where schools have sent mobile wireless hotspots home with students. This is a data set that nearly every school district should already have.

How to Prove an Area Qualifies

Even though local governments do not have to get approval for their determination that an area qualifies for this SLFRF expenditure, Treasury provides guidance for what evidence municipalities should consider in making the determination (page 303):

  • Consistent with further guidance issued by Treasury, in determining areas for investment, recipients may choose to consider any available data, including but not limited to documentation of existing broadband internet service performance, federal and/or state collected broadband data, user speed test results, interviews with community members and business owners, reports from community organizations, and any other information they deem relevant.

And if that was not sufficiently clear, Treasury goes above and beyond to be very clear that cities should not be bullied by the occasional intimidating ISP or some other opponent of more broadband investment (page 303 still):

  • In addition, recipients may consider the actual experience of current broadband customers when making their determinations; whether there is a provider serving the area that advertises or otherwise claims to offer broadband at a given speed is not dispositive.

This is a tremendously flexible framework. The federal government is giving local governments millions of dollars and trusting them to make wise investments that focus on the most vulnerable residents that are being left out of the opportunities the Internet offers. Some 17 states still limit local Internet choice by interfering with community authority to build a network or partner with an ISP. But everywhere else, communities have no one else to blame if they do not seize this historic opportunity.

Low-Cost Requirements and Encouraged Practices

Treasury adopted stronger requirements to ensure that the public dollars spent on these networks results in networks that are more accessible by all, including those living in poverty (page 308):

  • In response to many commenters that highlighted the importance of affordability in providing meaningful access to necessary broadband infrastructure, the final rule provides additional requirements to address the affordability needs of low-income consumers in accessing broadband networks funded by SLFRF. Recipients must require the service provider for a completed broadband infrastructure investment project that provides service to households to:
    • Participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP); or
    • Otherwise provide access to a broad-based affordability program to low-income consumers in the proposed service area of the broadband infrastructure that provides benefits to households commensurate with those provided under the ACP.

Though it isn’t required, Treasury recognizes the importance of a low-cost, high-quality tier of service, and spells out key parts of it (page 309, emphasis added):

  • Additionally, recipients are encouraged to require that services provided by a broadband infrastructure project include at least one low-cost option offered without data usage caps at speeds that are sufficient for a household with multiple users to simultaneously telework and engage in remote learning. Treasury will require recipients to report speed, pricing, and any data allowance information as part of their mandatory reporting to Treasury.

Other Bits of Interest

The Treasury Department uses OECD data as supporting evidence that the United States has a problem with affordable broadband Internet access on page 87:

  • However, even in areas where broadband infrastructure exists, broadband access may be out of reach for millions of Americans because it is unaffordable, as the United States has some of the highest broadband prices in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Treasury urges these expenditures use fiber optic technology (pages 306-7):

  • Treasury continues to encourage recipients to prioritize investments in fiber-optic infrastructure wherever feasible, as such advanced technology enables the next generation of application solutions for all communities and is capable of delivering superior, reliable performance and is generally most efficiently scalable to meet future needs.

As with every previous iteration of these rules, Treasury encourages prioritizing community networks – cooperatives, nonprofits, and local governments (page 298):

  • Treasury continues to encourage recipients to prioritize support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, nonprofits, and cooperatives.

Recipients of SLFRF funds have to report how they are using the funds. For broadband infrastructure expenditures, that reporting will include speed tiers, pricing, and data caps (page 309). Larger recipients report on a quarterly basis, smaller ones annually. More information on reporting guidelines here.

Additional discussion about the rule is available in the Q&A document, in this Beyond Telecom Law Blog, and CCG’s Pots and Pans.

Final note – I might be the only person who calls this the SLurF-uRF program but I encourage you to consider using that too because doing this work shouldn’t rob us of a juvenile sense of humor. Thanks for reading this far!

Editor’s Note: This piece was authored by Christopher Mitchell, director of the Institute for Local Self Reliance’s Community Broadband Network Initiative. His work focuses on helping communities ensure that the telecommunications networks upon which they depend are accountable to the community. He was honored as one of the 2012 Top 25 in Public Sector Technology by Government Technology, which honors the top “Doers, Drivers, and Dreamers” in the nation each year. This piece was originally published on MuniNetworks.org on January 13, 2022.

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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Tony Thakur: Bandwidth Consumption, 5G and Rural Coverage Will Drive Fiber in 2022

In the coming year, fiber-optic infrastructure will needed to manage and offer increases in bandwidth capacity.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Tony Thakur, chief technology officer of Great Plains Communications

All indications show that we will continue to consume more and more bandwidth in support of our connected online lifestyles.

Without a doubt, the recent move to the hybrid work/learning model and the need to be constantly connected has increased internet usage. And, as video streaming, e-gaming and video conferencing grow in popularity, the drive for more bandwidth will rise.

To deliver much-needed high speed internet service to support these applications, more Fiber will be required to homes and businesses. Fiber infrastructure is capable of delivering huge bandwidth amounts at needed speeds and will be deployed throughout long haul, metro and last mile networks.

Here’s a look at what’s important to telecom networks, some of the drivers behind the rising trend to fiber, and why fiber is here to stay.

What is behind the rising trend to fiber?

There are several drivers, including:

Bandwidth-consuming applications. When multiple devices are running multiple applications simultaneously, bandwidth is quickly used up and buffering and lag can occur. Thus, networks will need to add more and more bandwidth. The FCC Household Broadband Guide cites rough guidelines for broadband speeds needed for various activities.  We can expect to see increases of speed from gigabit to terabit in the future.

5G deployments. This is another area where there is significant growth. Ultra-fast networks like 5G will require large bandwidth connectivity from the towers to the Switching Center. Fiber has become the standard for backhaul networks. We will continue to see more fiber deployed as 5G grows.

Rural coverage.  Fiber has been widely deployed in the metro areas and for long haul networks. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law November  15, 2021 includes $65 billion in funding for broadband deployment to improve internet services for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities. With more focus on providing high speed internet, there will be more and more fiber deployments in the access or last mile across the country. This trend is likely to continue over the next three to five years, especially in the rural areas where access to the internet is limited to dated technologies and delivery methods. We will see more and more fiber to the home deployments as well.

Fiber technologies to be aware of

Here are some fiber technologies that not only facilitate the additional bandwidth, they simplify processes, enable automation and provide new capabilities:

GPON or Gigabit Ethernet passive optical network uses a single fiber with a point-to-multipoint architecture for the last mile to deliver higher speeds to homes and businesses. GPON was introduced several years ago, with downstream capacity of 2.5 G and upstream of 1.2 G. The newer version, XGS PON, provides additional capability with 10 G symmetrical speeds. Most deployments going forward will employ XGS PON to enable higher bandwidth and speeds.

SD-WAN or software-defined wide-area network technology has been widely adopted in the telecom industry today. Customers can obtain the security, improved performance and diversity from their premise to the cloud and other locations, leveraging multiple circuits. That connectivity can be internet, Ethernet or wireless. The technology also includes orchestration capability that simplifies the operational process. This will continue to be adapted as the workforce shifts to Hybrid remote work environments with more apps and data in the cloud.

SDN or software-defined networking is another technology used for cloud connectivity and other Ethernet-based services.  The network is connected to data centers and cloud providers to enable “on-line” type services. For example, the SDN network allows for demand-type services. Bandwidth can increase or decrease in minutes via a portal and customers pay for what they use versus the traditional monthly recurring circuit cost model.

Growing cloud connectivity

More and more organizations continue moving to and using cloud connectivity to access their applications and data that reside in cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google, Oracle, IBM, SAP, Nutanix, Salesforce, Alibaba and others. Improved performance, faster access, and more flexibility to access tools and data are merely a few of the benefits.

While some rely on the internet to reach the cloud, there are drawbacks such as latency, limited bandwidth and less than top-level security. A direct connection to cloud platforms via fiber is more secure, faster and more reliable, thus improving performance for applications and workloads.

The private cloud or data center requires significant investment to build and operate. A cloud connect via fiber enables easy access to applications anywhere in the cloud, from any location. Data can be stored at multiple locations around the world, providing better flexibility.

Staying power

Technology trends come and go. Remember when people relied on dial-up internet access and carried flip phones, Blackberries or pagers? Yet we sometimes overlook the complexity that goes into deploying new technologies. It is not only about the cool technologies themselves, but so much more. Innovation depends upon talented people who can implement services such as cloud.  Truly, it is the people that make the difference in how we successfully adapt to new technologies.

Tony Thakur is the chief technology officer of Great Plains Communications where he guides the company’s technology vision and focuses on expanding and enhancing its robust fiber network. He has over two decades of experience in C-level and senior executive roles in the telecommunications industry. Tony graduated with a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas, Arlington, Texas. This Expert Opinion 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 reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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