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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Discuss Broadband at Senate Hearing



WASHINGTON, March 16, 2018 – Questions about how the federal government will be involved in rolling out the next-generation infrastructure for wireless, known as 5G (for 5th generation) remained after a Wednesday infrastructure hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee.

“With the rise of the internet and cell phones, we face the new challenge of building infrastructure to facilitate access to these technologies for everyone,” said Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-South Dakota. “The principle is the same today as it was then: our nation must stay interconnected.”

Thune touted the “ambitious” plan unveiled by the Trump administration last month as evidence of a Republican commitment to upgrading the nation’s roads, bridges, and broadband networks, but his Democratic counterpart, Ranking Member Bill Nelson, D-Florida, panned the White House’s plans to leave the lion’s share of the bill to states and public-private partnerships, noting the country can neither “cut our way to prosperity” nor “toll our way out” of a lack of commitment from the federal government.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on innovative projects

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross used his opening statement to discuss the White House’s Transformative Projects Program, under which a committee chaired by the Commerce Secretary would hand out federal dollars for “bold and innovative projects…that have the potential to dramatically improve America’s infrastructure.”

“These are the types of projects that may not attract private sector investment without federal incentives, because of their unique characteristics, but they could have a substantial positive impact on states, cities, and localities,” Ross said, citing the projects “significant bang for the buck.”

Similarly, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue used his opening statement to highlight the proposed Rural Infrastructure Program, which would distribute federal funds as block grants to be administered by rural governors.

Yet some Senators were skeptical of whether the Trump programs would be an improvement over attempts by the previous administration to increase rural broadband penetration.

The priorities of the Rural Utilities Service in the past

Citing several Governmental Accountability Office reports which criticized the effectiveness of the Rural Utilities Service under the Obama administration, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, asked Perdue what his department is doing “to make sure that the loans and the grants that you make will be used to bring broadband to unserved areas,” rather than overbuild areas with sufficient connectivity.

Moran called the overbuilding of already-served areas while unserved areas were ignored “one of the frustrations of the past.”

“I don’t think there’s any doubt, senator, that your allegations are accurate in that regard,” said Perdue, before blaming the problem on “great grant writers” who were dipping into the same pot multiple times.

The key importance of making use of broadband mapping data

But Perdue noted that misallocation of broadband grant funds isn’t unique to the USDA, suggesting the “entire federal government” had failed to make sure broadband funds were deployed “in a strategic way.”

“You’ve got to start with good facts, you’ve got to start with accurate data,” he said, noting that both he and some Senators continue to have concerns over the Federal Communications Commission’s self-reported broadband maps.

“We’re trying again to work interagency-wise with Commerce, with the FCC, to make sure we’ve got the facts on the ground on strategically, how we need to deploy,” said Perdue.

“There’s a lot of money going out for broadband currently – how do we deploy that in the most needed areas rather than giving loans and grants to people who’ve overbilled? Our interest is in rural America – a ubiquitous system – how do we get there sooner rather than later?”

Perdue admitted that universal broadband will “not be an instantaneous thing,” but reiterated that successful universal deployment will require good facts and good data before stressing that his department takes the matter very seriously and wants to do better than past administrations have done.

Questioning whether the Trump administration is putting a rural focus on broadband

Despite the Trump administration’s stated focus on rural areas, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, remained unimpressed by the White House’s plan. He noted that the lack of federal funding could be a disaster for rural states unless the Trump administration expects them to sell off public lands to pay for new roads since, according to Tester, toll roads – another Trump administration favorite – “just won’t work.”

“I don’t understand how this plan is well thought out at all to get things build,” Tester said.

Will the Trump administration nationalize the nation’s 5G wireless network?

Another Senator with harsh words for the administration was Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who pressed Ross about plans by the Trump administration to nationalize the forthcoming 5G wireless network in the name of national security.

Earlier this year a leaked document alleged that the White House was considering either having the government build and operate the 5G network itself but resell capacity to commercial telecommunications providers.

When Cruz asked Ross if there was any truth to the proposal, Ross admitted he is “aware” of it, but said no final decision had been made.

“We regard 5G as quite essential both to the commercial interests and to the national security interests of the country,” Ross said. “Everybody is focused on the utter importance of 5G and of the U.S. being a leader in it.”

While Ross stressed that the administration has no desire to see the U.S. vacate a leadership position in 5G, Cruz warned that it would be a “grave mistake” to nationalize the network, and that such a proposal would face “significant resistance” from both chambers of Congress.

(Photo of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, right, speaking at an interagency forum in Washington on January 17, 2018, by the USDA.)

Andrew Feinberg was the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.

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Expert Opinion

Pierre Trudeau: Life in the Trenches, or Lessons Learned Deploying Broadband in MDUs

Behind every great wireless network, is an even greater wired network.



The author of this Expert Opinion is Pierre Trudeau, president and CTO of Positron Access Solutions.

Imagine community-wide Wi-Fi an industry standard in multi-dwelling environments. This is possible through the deployment of technology., an International Telecommunications Union (ITU-T) standard, is an access technology for operators looking to simplify their access network with an “Ethernet-like” technology. 

With, operators deliver advanced services, such as gigabit high-speed residential internet and 4K internet protocol television without the high capital and operational expenses associated with a fiber retrofit. Each subscriber port supports up to 1.7 Gbps of dynamically allocated bandwidth for near-symmetrical gigabit services. This enables providers to deliver a gigabit internet service to each apartment inside a multi-dwelling unit or a multi-tenant unit without the cost, complexity and delays associated with in-building fiber installation.

As deployed by Positron Access, is increasingly used by our partners to sustainably improve connectivity in multifamily communities. These partners offer in-depth analysis of cabling specifics and electrical as-built drawings of active properties to design a custom wiring solution to accommodate, rather than replace, each property’s unique, pre-existing infrastructure. 

Proven Benefits of Fiber Service Extension Applications

Our partners leverage their expertise of the Positron Access Multiplexer to enable MDU property management companies to offer lightning-quick, cost-effective, and dependable Gigabit internet speeds to their tenants in MDUs. Property management companies can then improve their service levels without the need for any building retrofit, which can be expensive and disruptive. Property management companies expand the services they deliver with an impressive ROI and minimal capital outlay.

The transformative nature of applications will make community-wide Wi-Fi an industry standard in multi-dwelling environments. With the broader installation of smart building systems including cameras, sensors, environmental controls, and asset tracking systems as crucial amenities for an improved resident experience, residents will come to view community Wi-Fi systems as another essential building asset. Owners that do not keep up with these developments will see the quality and capitalized value of their community suffer. 

The Process

Positron’s partners have developed a proven process to ensure a successful and sustainable deployment in existing brownfield properties.

In-Depth Site Surveys

The site survey process begins with a careful analysis of each property’s unique needs. Built from the ground up, the solution is designed to accommodate each property’s unique blueprints and connectivity requirements. Site surveys are extremely important to ensure systems are updated in the most economical way for each property’s connectivity requirements.

Minimal Interruption

The deployment process is aligned to complement, rather than disrupt, established occupancy turn processes. With little to no downtime, the installation enables property-wide connectivity, giving residents the opportunity to immediately connect to the internet, without reauthorizing as they move about the property.

Sustainable and scalable

Positron’s partners provide subscribers with an extensive support team, dedicated to each property’s continued development and operation, designing customized, future-proof solutions to ensure the network is both a sustainable and buildable foundation for upcoming technologies like Web 3.0, Wi-Fi 7 and 5G. technology is designed to be adapted and improved upon to grow in tandem with each property, working together to accommodate any future needs that may arise.

Lessons Learned

The installation of the GAM solution by Positron’s partners highlighted the importance of a careful pre-deployment site survey and this is applicable to coaxial and telephone wiring re-use with

For MDUs where the telephone wiring will be re-used, the continuity of pairs currently used for VDSL2 or even telephone service, there is no additional validation required since is permissive and will operate without further pair qualification or grooming.  For unused pairs, it is important to perform a continuity test using the same tools and techniques used for the last 20 years for xDSL.  Bad pairs can then be identified and repaired as needed.

When re-using coaxial cabling, understanding how each room or apartment is connected is important.  Most MDUs are cabled with “home run” coaxial cabling to a common location where taps or splitters can be installed in a point to multipoint mode to reduce the connectivity cost of each subscriber.  Unlike CATV and DOCSIS, does not require coaxial amplifiers and fine tuning with attenuating taps.  If co-habitation with CATV is required, the signal shall be injected downstream of the CATV/DOCSIS amplifier with a simple 2:1 combiner device.  Otherwise, if migrating to IPTV or streaming, these amplifiers and attenuating taps shall be removed as they are no longer useful.

For some properties, the option of a comprehensive site survey is not always an option.  For instance, a property of about 450 doors no longer had up to date coaxial cabling diagrams.  In this case, rather than spending days “toning out” each coaxial drop with specialized equipment to document the coaxial infrastructure, we recommend installing the GAM devices in each wiring closet and pre-install the endpoint devices in each room or apartment and to record serial number of each device against the room or apartment number.  Using the endpoint auto-detection feature for each coaxial port of the GAM, it is then simple and efficient to use this information to fully document which door is served by each coaxial segment.

Overall, we learned that is robust and rather forgiving with regards to “less than stellar” existing wiring.  You can plan fiber extension by re-using the existing wiring in your building without too much concern about potential complexity, cost, or performance issues.

Pierre Trudeau is the president and CTO of Positron Access Solutions and a seasoned Networking and Technology Executive with over 30 years of experience. Pierre founded Colubris Networks, a leader in advanced Wi-Fi solutions for Wireless ISP, Carriers and Enterprises in March 2000. He provided business and technology services to several companies until January 2013 when he joined Positron Access as its Chief Strategy Officer. This Expert Opinion is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

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

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Open Access

Financing Mechanisms for Community Broadband, Panel 3 at Digital Infrastructure Investment

Panel 3 video. Join the Broadband Breakfast Club to watch the full-length videos from Digital Infrastructure Investment.



Video from Panel 3 at Digital Infrastructure Investment: Kim McKinley, Chief Marketing Officer, UTOPIA Fiber, Jeff Christensen, President & CEO, EntryPoint Networks, Jane Coffin, Chief Community Officer, Connect Humanity, Robert Wack, former Westminster Common Council President and leader of the Open Access Citywide Fiber Network Initiative, and moderated by Christopher Mitchell, Director, Community Broadband Networks, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

For a free article summarizing the event, see Communities Need Governance Seat on Broadband Builds, Conference Hears: Communities need to be involved in decision-making when it comes to broadband builds, Broadband Breakfast, November 17, 2022

Access Premium content for Broadband Breakfast Club members. Login to your account below. Or visit Broadband Breakfast Club to signup.

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Fiber Providers Need to Go Beyond Speed for Differentiation, Consultant Says

40 percent are unsure of their home internet speeds, said Jonathan Chaplin of New Street Research.



Photo of Jonathan Chaplin, managing partner at New Street Research

WASHINGTON, November 9, 2022 – Despite fiber’s fast broadband speeds, providers must innovate and offer other benefits – like content bundling – to maintain market share as customers increasingly make purchasing decisions based on non-speed factors, argued Jonathan Chaplin, managing partner at New Street Research, a telecommunications and technology research firm.

“Our message to the cable industry is: Stop marketing on speed, put everybody on the gigabit tier, and start differentiating on everything else,” Chaplin said at a Fiber Broadband Association event Wednesday.

Chaplin also urged fiber providers to prepare to enter the wireless market, saying that wireless and broadband will soon “converge into one marketplace.

“It’s not a major differentiator or driver of consumers’ decisions today, but you need to start working on this as a product category to be ready for it by the time it [is],” he added.

And raw speed won’t be enough to attract customers, Chaplin argued. Although consumers say speed and price are the two top factors when considering internet plans, he said, his research shows that 40 percent are unsure of their home internet speeds.

Typical speeds have greatly increased in recent years, and Chaplin said faster service provides no perceptible benefit to most customers once certain speeds are reached. According to his data, “Increases in speed (above 200 Mbps) really have no impact on the satisfaction of a household with their broadband provider.”

Fixed-wireless uptake shows speed isn’t always king

The rise of fixed-wireless providers, who usually don’t advertise on speed, further demonstrates that consumers are willing to make purchase decisions on other factors, Chaplin argued. In fact, his research shows that many new fixed-wireless customers did not make the switch due to speed complaints.

“If you’re in the fiber business, you’re in a strong position. You’ve got a product that wins in the market today, but you cannot afford to be complacent,” Chaplin said. “The battleground for consumers is going to shift and you need to be ready for shift when it comes,” he added.

The Federal Communications Commission is considering a proposal to mandate “broadband nutrition labels,” which proponents say would help consumers understand the details of their internet plans. Researchers at the TPRC 2022 conference in September suggested that such labels should include “interpretive” data to explain the real-world implications of technical metrics. TPRC speakers also echoed Chaplin’s claim increased speeds do not necessarily correlate with higher customer satisfaction rates.

Industry players differ on substantive policy points surrounding the proposal, however, including whether labels should be mandatorily included on month internet bills.

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