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Geoff Mulligan: A ‘Dumb’ Way to Build Smart Cities

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In every corner of the country and around the world, leaders are trying to make their cities “smarter.” These projects are often in response to specific and on-going demands — such as parking, overcrowding, noise, and pollution — while others have started to address broader goals — such as reduction of energy consumption, improvement of traffic flow, or sustainability. But as is often the case with grand ideas, many are taking the wrong approach. It’s simply impossible, in one sweep, to build a Smart City. Just as the internet and the web didn’t spring forth fully formed, as if from some “master plan,” Smart Cities must be built as organic, independent, and yet connected pieces. As Stewart Brand cogently argued, even buildings have to learn in steps.

A Smart City roadmap is invaluable, laying out a direction to help set expectations. However, it shouldn’t define specific cross-system technologies and implementation details, nor plan for all projects to launch or complete simultaneously. They must instead be created as separate solutions for each problem, then stitched together by open standards and open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and each built as an independent service. That’s how they must grow if we want them to succeed — learning by iteration.

Today’s problem

In the rush to “capture the market,” companies are selling “complete visions” — though incomplete solutions – of how their systems can solve the ills that plague the modern city. City planners, managers, and officials get sold the idea that these companies have some kind of silver bullet that, in a single solution, integrates all city functions and enhances their capabilities, thus making them work together efficiently. But this belies the true nature of the problem: none of us are smart enough to fully appreciate or understand the complexity of managing all the functions that go into making a city work. The sheer diversity of the systems ensures that no single technology can be applied as “the” solution. In addition, the timeframe for implementing these disparate programs can vary widely, meaning that technology selected at the start of one project will likely be obsolete by the start of another.

Worse yet, these companies are also selling and deploying products that are based on closed, proprietary systems. They include proprietary radios, single-purpose hardware, proprietary software and protocols, and closed web applications and portals. These designs constrain innovation and interfere with interoperability between newer and older systems, often saddling the new with the constraints of the past. This is like the Trojan Horse — a solution that requires all future systems to use these proprietary systems and thereby locking the city into that particular vendor for the rest of their days, limiting design and technology choices and stifling innovation and adoption of newer technology.

It’s not all gloom and doom. With the application of open systems and implementation of a service-oriented architecture, future technology can be built that’ll integrate more seamlessly with previous technology investments.

Choose a different path

We’ve learned from the lean-agile community to build success in small, incremental steps rather than one grand leap. But with the different needs, design patterns, and timeframes, how is it possible to accomplish building a Smart City in small steps? It’s done by leveraging the nature of the internet itself, complete with open standards and open APIs. By decoupling every system and eliminating hidden interfaces, we can relieve the pressures of time and technology interdependencies, thereby allowing greater innovation in each separate project while “future proofing” the design decisions.

We use different materials and architecture to construct buildings with differing purposes (hospitals vs. homes vs. high-rises), but there’s a consistency even within these varying buildings for standard electrical and plumbing connections. Smart City projects can adopt this same design pattern. This means that for a parking project, the city can pick the most appropriate communication technology but require that the system be built on open standard protocols that underlie the internet (for example, HTTP, IP, TCP, and MQTT), use data formats such as JSON or XML, and have open APIs.

Greater than the sum of the parts

Instead of a complete Smart City that’s decades in the making, city managers can instead look for “low-hanging fruit” or “greatest pain point” and more quickly build a point solution, knowing that it can simply be connected to any future systems in a scalable and secure manner. A smart parking system for city streets or a parking garage built using LoRa today can be connected to a city traffic management system built using NBIoT next year, as long as both use open APIs and avoid closed, proprietary solutions including “walled garden” cloud solutions.

The next city improvement project — a smart street light system, for example — might require a completely different communication technology from the previous parking system. Streetlights are up high and more distributed than parking meters or parking spaces in a garage. Streetlights have power, whereas a parking sensor will likely be battery-operated. These different requirements would necessitate the use of different communication technologies, but both systems can be interconnected through common protocols and APIs. Through open APIs, this interconnectivity doesn’t need to be designed in from the beginning but can be added after each of the separate systems is installed.

For example, the streetlight system that’s installed today could be connected to traffic flow sensors installed tomorrow. The two systems may use completely different communication technology and set of protocols. This new combination — streetlight and traffic flow sensors connected through open APIs — could offer an innovative solution for reducing streetlight energy usage by dimming lights when there are no cars, but increasing the brightness prior to the cars arrival based on messages from the traffic flow system.

The use and adherence to open APIs and microservices brings another benefit — decoupled velocity. This means that even concurrent projects can be built at different speeds and rolled out at different times and yet combined when each is completed and functional. As in the example above, the smart streetlight project might end up taking longer to deploy because of the sheer number of devices. Where as the traffic flow sensors might be installed sooner. Open APIs release each system from timing interdependencies and implementation speed.

Vendor lock-in and future-proofing

Another benefit of open standards and APIs is the elimination of vendor lock-in, which is when a vendor wins all future business because they alone are holding the keys to the design and the data. Vendor lock-in squelches innovation: you’re only as innovative as the vendor wants to be or lets you be. If a city needs a design or solution that isn’t in the vendor’s current portfolio, the city’s choices become wait, pay more to have the vendor add it to their roadmap, or go outside the ecosystem and use some sort of gateway (but gateways are evil, see below) to translate protocols and data and interconnect the systems.

Instead, open standards and APIs bring the ability to incorporate and evolve with newer technologies and systems. But, much like vendor lock-in, you can run afoul of technology lock-in. Imagine having built a Smart City project requiring the use of videotape and now not being able to adopt streaming technologies because they’re incompatible. Technology changes rapidly; in just a few years, we’ve moved from 2G to 3G and now to 5G in the cellular environment. By using open standards to decouple the higher-layer protocols from the lower layers, technology can evolve and systems using older tech can easily interconnect. In this way a system deployed using 4G today can interoperate with 5G systems tomorrow and 6G and 7G systems in a few years.

The underpinnings of innovation

Avoiding vendor and technology lock-in is critical to allow for innovation. Nothing will be more detrimental to a city’s infrastructure and future than to be bound to a vendor and have to ask for permission to enhance or extend the systems’ functionality. As new technology comes to the market and new services are brought out to solve other city issues, the ability to quickly test and connect them to existing solutions is the necessary for offering evolving solutions and bringing more opportunities for innovation and cost reductions. When you embark on your next project, ask your vendors — “do you use open standard protocols?” and “how are your APIs and data published?”

Avoid these traps — the ‘evil’ gateway and ‘private clouds’

One tool that many vendors attempt to leverage to show openness and interoperability is the “gateway.” They claim that they provide, or can build, a gateway to connect to other systems. Gateways are a never-ending trap on so many levels:

  • they’re a single point of failure;
  • they’re a single point of attack for hackers;
  • they require complex coordination between systems;
  • maintenance and updates are costly or non-existent;
  • updates need to be managed;
  • they add extra costs for hardware and power; and
  • they’re closed and proprietary.

The second trap is private clouds and walled gardens. The vendor will claim that they use “all of the open internet standards,” listing protocol after protocol, but they use these protocols only to send the data (your data) into a closed, proprietary cloud system — locking it away so that only they have the keys. This is akin to building a road that leads to a cul-de-sac, which is blocked by a locked gate that only lets traffic in. Then, new systems must be built to connect through this cloud, likely via closed and proprietary interfaces. In the end, only other systems in this closed ecosystem can be used for future projects, thereby limiting innovation and increasing time and costs. Sending data to the cloud isn’t a panacea, as many vendors would like to suggest.

Who owns the data — that is, your data

In Smart City projects the goals of improving city services or infrastructure are the leading driver for implementation but the greatest benefits will come from the availability of the data gathered from these projects and new systems. Unfortunately, many of the Smart City systems being proffered today lock away access to the data in walled gardens, as mentioned before. It’s imperative that the data is sent to city-owned and managed servers, or the city’s data lake or available without license through open APIs. Only in this way will the city and future Smart City projects be able to use and leverage the wealth of information and the underlying real value of these types of projects.

A related concern surrounding data ownership is the rights to the use and sale of the data created by the Smart City project — a valuable commodity. Throughout the life of the project it should be clear that the city owns all rights to the data. The vendor may not access, distribute, or sell any of the data whether in raw form or aggregated without the explicit permission of the city. Only in this way will you be able to protect the rights and privacy of the city and it’s citizens.

Choosing the right project

By adopting open standards and APIs, you’re now able to embark on a Smart City project without having to solve all other city projects at the same time or constrain them with the choices made today. But choosing the “right” project is important. In some cases, it’s prudent to choose a small, fast, low-cost project. This allows you to get your feet wet, test vendors, accomplish a project in a short time, and hopefully succeed; but if you fail, fail fast, learn, and move on. There sometimes is a problem with these projects though: they may have little impact and they may cause others to look upon them as “ho hum.”

An alternative is to choose a project that’s a large “pain point” for the city. By definition, these projects have great visibility and impact, but may have far greater risk and take much longer to complete. They don’t generally meet the rules for lean-agile, but the small “safe” projects may not show off the true benefits that a Smart City can bring. Solve this by using divide and conquer. Rather than implementing smart parking across the entire city, choose to focus on a particularly congested city section or single parking structure.

Building success

When a city is becoming smarter by investing in a Smart City project, use this checklist to evaluate the project:

  • Does it start small and scale well? This is better than a monolithic solution that requires a gigantic investment.
  • Is it locking the city into technologies, or, even worse, vendors? Does it exclude other vendors?
  • Is it open? What protocols are used? Are the APIs published and open?
  • Did the vendor mention or require (evil) gateways?
  • Does it solve a problem for the city quickly, even if it’s only a small problem?
  • What will the city be able to learn from taking on this project?
  • Who owns the data?

Through the strict application and requirement of openness, your Smart City project can be delivered in a way that’s quick, beneficial, evolvable, and scalable. Our cities can and will become smarter and better places to live through small steps and open standards — open APIs and microservices are the foundational stepping stones to that future.

Geoff Muilligan is IoT Practice Lead at Skylight Digital and CTO for IIoT at Jabil. Past founder and Chairman of LoRa and IPSO. Former White House Presidential Innovation  Fellow on IoT. Creator of 6lowpan. This article originally appeared on the author’s web site, and is reposted with permission.

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

Geoff Muilligan is IoT Practice Lead at Skylight Digital and CTO for IIoT at Jabil. Past founder and Chairman of LoRa and IPSO. Former White House Presidential Innovation Fellow on IoT. Creator of 6lowpan.

Expert Opinion

Rahul Sen Sharma: The Metaverse is Not Web 3.0

The Metaverse is at the forefront of developments in seamless payments and richer information flows.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Rahul Sen Sharma, managing partner at Indxx.

Web 3.0 is a concept for the next generation of internet architecture that envisions a decentralized ecosystem based on blockchain technology. It is an evolution of how users would control, own, and manage their online content, digital assets and identities.

Web 3.0 marks a departure from the centralized mega platforms and corporations that currently dominate the Web 2.0 ecosystem.

The Metaverse is at the forefront of the Web 3.0 internet revolution. It can be defined as a set of interconnected, experience driven 3D virtual worlds where users can socialize in real-time to form a persistent and thriving user-owned internet economy regardless of any physical or geographical constraints.

Both the technologies of Web 3.0 and Metaverse support each other perfectly. Even though the Metaverse is a virtual space whereas Web 3.0 favours a decentralized web, it could form the basis for connectivity in the Metaverse. While the development of the Metaverse is in nascent stages, the exponential growth of non-fungible tokens, P2E (Play to Earn) games and decentralised autonomous organisations have boosted the development of Web 3.0.

A future involving distributed and anonymous users

Web 3.0 envisions a future involving distributed anonymous users and machines interacting without the need for an intermediary, to form a composable human-centric and privacy preserving computing fabric.

These interactions would range from seamless payments and richer information flows, to trusted data transfers via a mechanism of peer-to-peer networks without the need for third parties.

The shift should lead to a wave of new business models that bypass the existing global co-operatives that we currently have, and replace them with decentralised, autonomous organisations and self-sovereign data marketplaces.

As mentioned, Web3 is built on blockchain technology and DAOs rather than the current model of centralized servers owned by large corporations. In the same way, the ideal structure of the Metaverse is also full decentralisation.

The technologies behind achieving decentralization would be distributed ledgers and blockchain technology which enables value-exchange between softwares, self-sovereign identities and the creation of a transparent and secure environment.

The blockchain is central to the Metaverse, and to Web 3.0

In an ideal form, both Web 3.0 and the Metaverse takes advantage of blockchain to give unrestricted, permissionless access to everyone with an internet connection.

Currently, development towards the Metaverse is being spearheaded by big tech corporations such as Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, and more, all of which are major players in Web 2.0. The model of centralised Metaverse being built by them involves closed ecosystems that are only designed to extract value at the expense of their most valuable assets – users, content creators and customers.

This contrasts with the envisioned form of Metaverse and Web 3.0 with decentralization, interoperability and seamless interaction between different virtual worlds and the real world.

Still, the big tech corporations are investing resources into their Metaverse development and have their own vision and plans for what the Metaverse would be.

Meanwhile, decentralized Metaverses and Web3 initiatives are currently attracting record investment, pulling in around $30 billion in venture capital last year alone.

As we shift to what will likely be a more decentralized web, the creator economy is also evolving and likely to become a multibillion-dollar industry with immense potential for creators and publishers.

The creator economy in the Metaverse can supplement the vision of web 3.0 for developing a new financial world with decentralized solutions.

In Web 3.0, users can create content while owning, controlling, and monetizing them through the implementation of blockchain and cryptocurrencies. However, the model of this creator economy is likely to disrupt the business models of many current big-tech corporations.

Regardless, the Metaverse requires both big tech companies to build the technology and the creator economy to produce interesting content for driving engagement. Partnerships, reduced platform fees and creative commissions by big tech to creators within the metaverse can be a way to stimulate the already fast-growing creator economy.

Rahul Sen Sharma is a managing partner at Indxx and has been instrumental in leading the firm’s growth since 2011. He manages Indxx’s Sales, Client Engagement, Marketing and Branding teams while also helping to set the firm’s overall strategic objectives and vision. Prior to joining Indxx, Rahul was the Director of Investment Research for RR Advisory Group (now part of Mariner Wealth Advisors), a full service private wealth management firm based in New York that caters to high net worth individuals. 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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Digital Inclusion

W. Antoni Sinkfield: To Succeed in 21st Century, Communities Need to Get Connected Now

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community and understand its problems.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Reverend W. Antoni Sinkfield, Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary.

One of the primary responsibilities of being a faith leader is to listen to your community, understand its problems, and provide support in challenging times. Particularly during the pandemic, it has been hard not to notice that my parishioners, and folks across the country, are divided into two groups: those with access to the internet, and those without.

In 2022, digital inclusion is still something we strive for in poor and rural areas throughout America. The lack of reliable internet access is an enormous disadvantage to so many people in all facets of their lives.

To fully participate in today’s society, all people, no matter who they are and no matter where they live, must have access to the internet. Think of the remote learning every child had to experience when schools were closed, and the challenges that families faced when they didn’t have access to a quality connection.

It’s a question of plain fairness.

Politicians have been talking for decades about bringing high-speed internet access to everyone, however many families continue to be left behind. More than 42 million people across the country lack affordable, reliable broadband connections, and as many as 120 million people who cannot get online are stuck with slow service that does not allow them to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer.

People of color are disproportionately affected by lack of broadband access

Lack of broadband disproportionately affects communities of color, as well: 35 percent of Americans of Latino descent and 29 percent of African-Americans do not have a broadband connection at home.

Every person in rural towns, urban neighborhoods, and tribal communities needs and deserves equal and full economic and educational opportunities. Studies show that students without home access to the internet are less likely to attend college and face a digital skills gap equivalent to three years’ worth of schooling. Small businesses, which are the cornerstone of rural and urban communities alike, need broadband to reach their customers and provide the service they expect.

Simply put, having access to the internet in every community is vital to its ability to succeed in the 21st century.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to take major steps toward a solution. Last year, Congress passed President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $65 billion to expand broadband access and affordability. It is essential that we use this money to connect as many unserved and underserved communities as we can – and as quickly as we can.

Different places need different options to bridge the digital divide

As we bridge the digital divide, we must listen to those who have been left behind and make sure that we deploy solutions that fit their needs. Different places need different options – so it’s important that all voices are heard, and the technology that works best for the community is made readily available.

All people need access to broadband to learn, work, shop, pay bills, and get efficient healthcare.

When I talk to my parishioners, they speak about how much of their lives have transitioned online and are frustrated about not having reliable access. They do not care about the nuances of how we bring broadband to everyone. They just want to have it now – and understandably so.

This means that we must explore all solutions possible to provide high-speed broadband with the connection and support they need, when they need it, regardless of where they live.

Now is the time to meet those struggling where they are, stop dreaming about bridging the divide, and just get it done. Our government has a rare opportunity to fix an enormous problem, using money already approved for the purpose. Let’s make sure they do so in a manner that works for the communities they’re trying to help.

Rev. W. Antoni Sinkfield, Ph.D., serves as Associate Dean for Community Life at Wesley Theological Seminary, and is an ordained Itinerate Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. 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 Mapping & Data

Bryan Darr: Federal Broadband Funding is Available for Local Governments

Ookla can help your community get the funding you need to provide access for all to the digital economy.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Bryan Darr, vice president of Smart Communities at Ookla.

Local governments, the clock is ticking.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act set billions of dollars out on the infrastructure buffet table for local governments in the United States and there are more guests invited to the party than ever before.

This funding is almost certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect your community and provide access for all to the digital economy. The question is: will you be at the front or the back of the line?

Ookla can help you. This article is designed to give you the information you need to get started on the path toward getting the funding you need for your communities.

Look to your state for funding

Historically, broadband funding has had a very top-down approach.

The Federal Communications Commission has held almost all the power to determine where federal broadband infrastructure dollars have been spent. But for the first time, state governments will have an active role in guiding these decisions.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act directs $65 billion to improving broadband connectivity across the U.S., with $42.45 billion earmarked for building new infrastructure.

Once the initial FCC map has been released, each state that has declared their intent to participate through National Telecommunications and Information Administration will be provided a minimum $100 million to get the process started (U.S. territories will split an additional $100 million).

Much of the remaining $22 billion will target affordability, but more on that later.

The race for resources will be officially off and running.

Following this initial disbursement, there will be roughly $37 billion more to be awarded from the IIJA alone.

Many states are still sitting on billions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Acts and broadband is an allowable expenditure for these remaining stimulus dollars.

Add to that the long running connectivity programs such as Connect America Fund, Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, Mobility Fund and the upcoming Rural 5G Fund, and all those programs combined approach $100 billion over the next decade.

Plan ahead to increase your competitiveness

Past programs have provided funding without setting proper expectations on results. More emphasis is now being placed on planning.

With a focus on estimated cost per service address, network design takes a front seat to ensure these resources are spent efficiently and state officials will be allowed to use up to five percent of this for mapping, designing, and cost estimation.

Most states are already planning, or already building, their own broadband availability maps. But if you have connectivity issues in your community, it’s time to make it known to those who will be responsible for directing funds and deciding which communities will see investment and which will not.

Ookla helped Loudoun County, Virginia secure $17 million

We have experience helping local governments navigate this challenging planning process.

When FCC Form 477 broadband availability data showed that nearly 100% of Loudoun residents have access to what the FCC defines as broadband (25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download, 3 Mbps upload), this was inconsistent with the connectivity experiences of county residents.

So the Loudoun Broadband Alliance chose to use Ookla Speedtest Intelligence® to create an accurate and reliable broadband access mapping methodology using real-world network performance data.

With this data, LBA identified a large number of unserved households in contrast to FCC data which showed them as served. Loudoun County was subsequently awarded over $17 million of funding to help eliminate the broadband gap.

Keep in mind that the maps will never be finished. They will change and evolve as the networks in your area grow.

Funded projects will need to be monitored for compliance and older networks will need to be watched for signs of deterioration. Everyone will need to keep an eye on progress, measure successes, and have the data to act early when projects go off track.

Acadiana, Louisiana used Speedtest data to win $30 million

With Speedtest data, the Acadiana Planning Commission was able to successfully challenge FCC maps on over 900 out of approximately 1,000 census blocks.

The APC applied for funding through the NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program, which made $288 million in funding available to help close the digital divide in the U.S.. There were over 230 applicants, and only 13 grants were awarded.

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Acadiana in March to announce that the APC had been awarded a $30 million grant that will fund high-speed internet in 11 rural Acadiana communities.

Think big! Broadband funding is available for more than just infrastructure

Accessibility to broadband requires at least four components: infrastructure, affordability, equipment, and knowledge. The lack of any one of these means an individual does not have access to today’s digital economy.

Much of the focus has been on the lack of infrastructure in many rural communities, but infrastructure is the absolutely essential piece for anyone in any community to get connected.

The second component, affordability, often drives the last two requirements as people who cannot afford internet service often cannot afford the necessary equipment and, therefore, are less likely to have developed the knowledge to use it.

Tracking both of these two primary elements is key to understanding the digital divide.

You might qualify for funding in more than one of these four areas. For example, over $14 billion in a new Affordable Connectivity Program is included in the broadband portion of the IIJA.

Remaining funds include $2.75 billion for the Digital Equity Grant Program and the $2 billion Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, as well as two more programs that will assist the USDA improve the internet in agricultural communities.

Agencies and local governments should work together

Cities should be coordinating with counties and other government entities within the same region — but someone needs to be in charge.

If your local government does not have an individual charged with coordinating all these efforts, there is bound to be duplication of efforts, wasted resources, stagnation of ideas, or all of the above.

Whether this person reports directly to the chief technology officer, chief information officer, mayor, or city manager, their purpose is to understand what all departments are doing in the space and coordinate discussions, grant opportunities, and overlapping initiatives to make sure that departments aren’t working at cross purposes.

Non-profits, community activists, and local corporations all have a stake in the success of these efforts.

Traffic problems won’t suddenly end at the municipal boundary. Improving traffic on one side of the line may create more problems on the other side. Working together with your neighbors is just as important as working with internal departments. The same can be said of both fixed and wireless broadband infrastructure.

Dig-once projects will score extra points in the competition to have projects selected.

Broadband is only part of the $1.2 billion infrastructure law. Roads, bridges, ports, and rail have billions of dedicated dollars as well.

Digging a new trench for a clean water system? Coordinate with the project to include conduit and fiber and your efficient use of taxpayer funds will likely be rewarded.

Consider funding for multiple technologies

As great as it might be to provide every service address in the country with a fiber connection, it may not make economic sense in some places.

But an important detail was clearly stated in the legislation that recognizes a technology neutral stance on solutions.

The rules are not yet complete on how the FCC and NTIA will award the IIJA funds and contend with challenges to their findings, but there are certainly far fewer restrictions on the ARPA funds that are already disbursed to the states. Many connectivity projects are already underway whether through infrastructure development, equipment distribution, or subsidies for affordable service.

Wireless services can get people connected much faster and there are several forms.

Traditional mobile operators are rolling out 5G and Fixed Wireless Access in some areas that can directly compete with traditional fixed services. Wireless internet service providers have launched coverage to homes and businesses that previously had satellite as their only option.

Some municipalities and school systems have launched private 4G LTE networks to connect underserved areas in their communities. And municipal Wi-Fi can still be an important part of an overall solution.

A portion of families may never find subscribing to a fixed network practical, but wireless services allow for easier movement and some don’t even require a residence. Understanding wireless network availability and performance across your jurisdiction is just as important as planning a fiber network.

And here’s a bonus — cellular and other transmission sites need fiber for any new 5G cell site. So if you know where your wireless networks need additional infrastructure, you can plan for places in the network to offer them accessible fiber connections.

If your state still has ARPA funds available, you still have an opportunity to make improvements and learn more about connectivity issues so you are better able to make your case for the IIJA funds as they begin to flow.

Ookla can provide you with the data you need to be competitive for federal funding

It has been said for years that broadband is the fourth utility.

Local governments have spent a lot of their resources managing the first three: water, gas, and electricity.

If any of those become unavailable, even for a brief period of time, their citizens will make their unhappiness known. Resiliency of these services will play a part in how elected officials are judged, whether the local government supplies these services or just manages an external provider.

If you serve in local government, you should anticipate the same expectations going forward for broadband in your community.

The internet has become vital to the way we live our lives, and access to it dictates much of our success both as residents and businesses. Recognizing connectivity as a critical service may have been a consequence of a pandemic, but that change in thinking is here to stay.

That’s why Ookla is here to help you learn more about the connectivity in your area.

We’ve already helped local governments secure tens of millions of dollars in federal funding in Loudoun County, Virginia and Acadiana, Louisiana. We are also working with state broadband offices as well as municipalities to help them gain visibility into network availability and performance.

If you want your community to take advantage of the billions pouring into improving connectivity, get in line before it’s too late.

Drawn from billions of Speedtest results, Ookla’s Broadband Performance Dataset provides governments, regulators, ISPs, and mobile operators with insights about the state of fixed networks and broadband accessibility. The Broadband Performance Dataset helps you identify unserved and underserved areas, prioritize investment opportunities to improve access to broadband, challenge funding decisions, and secure grants.

To learn more about the Broadband Performance Dataset, Speedtest Intelligence, and other solutions for your state and/or local governments, please contact us.

Bryan Darr is the Vice President of Smart Communities at Ookla. He coordinates Ookla’s outreach to local, state and federal governments and serves on CTIA’s Smart Cities Business & Technology Working Group. This piece was first published on Ookla’s web site, and is reprinted with permission.

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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