Connect with us


Digital Infrastructure Investment: Preview Video



The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated just how dependent we are, as a world, upon high-quality broadband.

Broadband networks are a lifeline — for working, for education, for telemedicine, for dance recitals, for conversations in the public square and simple human connectedness.

We can’t solve all the problems of COVID-19 at our Digital Infrastructure Investment conference on August 10. But we can address this essential fact: Our world needs better broadband networks. How are we going to get them?

Digital Infrastructure Investment, brought to you by Broadband Breakfast and sponsored by SiFi Networks and UTOPIA Fiber, is a pathbreaking joining of the infrastructure and financial services communities.

We’ll be talking about last-mile fiber, small cell and 5G wireless deployments — and the finances necessary to bring advanced networks and services to more places.

We start with this premise: Digital assets in the 2020s may no longer be built and financed by incumbent and vertically-integrated telecom monopolies.

Digital Infrastructure Investment going forward will instead look more like wholesale networks, shared infrastructure, open access, the separation of pipes and services, and universal broadband connectivity.

We’ll hear from industry leaders already showing the way forward, including CityFibre’s Greg Mesch. He’s the CEO of Britain’s third nation-wide digital infrastructure platform. He’ll tell his story — including what it means for the United States.

Join us on August 10 for the beginning of something big, at Digital Infrastructure Investment.

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

Open Access

Shared Broadband Infrastructure to Get Increasingly Common: Experts

The model is well-suited to address the problem of indoor connectivity, experts said.



Screenshot of Tuesday's panel.

WASHINGTON, December 7, 2023 – Shared infrastructure is poised to become more common in broadband networks, experts said on Tuesday.

“The economics of neutral hosts are, I think, almost inevitable,” said Jonathan Adelstein, managing director at DigitalBridge Investment Management, which invests in shared telecommunications infrastructure.

“Towers are the primo example, but it moves down the line,” he said at the Broadband Breakfast Digital Infrastructure Investment Summit. “Particularly middle mile fiber is already neutral host, essentially.”

“Neutral hosts” own telecom towers and allow multiple wireless carriers to attach their equipment to them. Middle mile fiber cable, which connects local networks to internet exchange points, is typically used in a similar way, with multiple providers using the same strand to transfer data.

Another prime use case for shared infrastructure is indoor wireless connectivity, said Greg McLaughlin, CEO of AEX Automation Exchange, a company that provides software for fiber network operators.

“It just doesn’t make sense economically to build multiple networks in there when one network is more efficient and better utilizes spectrum,” he said.

David Bronston, special counsel at Phillips Lytle LLP, where he works with telecommunications providers on permitting, pointed to the New York subway system.

“You can’t get a more shared infrastructure than transit wireless in the New York City subways, which has all the carriers on it and a WiFi system,” he said. “When you come back from work everyone is on their phone. Shared infrastructure works.”

Shared last mile fiber networks, which provide connections to individual homes and businesses, are also set to become more common. AT&T closed a deal in May with investment giant BlackRock to build a 1.5-million-location open access network, meaning other internet providers could use the infrastructure to provide service to customers. 

Gigapower, the firm set up to manage the network, has been in talks with state broadband offices to scoop up funding from the Joe Biden administration’s $42.5 billion broadband expansion effort. States will start awarding grants under that program sometime in 2024.

The session was moderated by Drew Clark, editor and publisher of Broadband Breakfast. 

Continue Reading


Last Mile BEAD Builds Need More Exchange Points to be Effective: Experts

The high cost of data transport and high latency could hinder fiber builds in rural areas.



Screenshot of the Digital Infrastructure Investment Summit panel.

WASHINGTON, December 6, 2023 – Federally funded broadband infrastructure in rural areas could be less effective without more internet exchange points, experts said on Tuesday.

The Joe Biden administration’s $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program is targeted at bringing fiber-optic cable, the fastest, most future-proof technology available, to areas of the country without adequate internet access. 

That program emphasizes “last mile” builds, connections to individual homes and businesses. But such connections, while necessary, are only part of the puzzle, said Tom Cox, vice president of state and government affairs at Connected Nation, a nonprofit that works with states to expand broadband access.

“If you don’t figure out a way to solve the transport issue, and if you don’t figure out a way to solve the latency issue, a lot of this BEAD money is going to be kind of all for naught,” he said at the Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment Summit.

The transport and latency issues Cox referred to are the high cost of data transfer and higher latency for networks that are physically farther from internet exchange points, or IXPs. Those are facilities where local internet providers exchange traffic and data with the broader internet. 

“We’re already talking to providers in rural areas,” he said. “And once they built out to these places, they said ‘We can’t afford it… we are taking a loss because our transport costs are so high.’”

In the United States, IXPs are typically located in larger cities where demand for traffic is already high. That’s because American exchanges are typically for-profit, as opposed to the nonprofit exchanges found in Europe, said Ben Hedges, vice president of network strategy at IXP operator Cyxtera.

Scott Brown manages a data center in Richmond, Virginia. He said after he got connected to a closer IXP in the state, “our latency to most of our destinations, about 30 milliseconds, dropped down to 3 milliseconds.”

The difference was only a few thousandths of a second, but the faster data transfer amounted to a “massive difference in quality of internet,” he said. He also saw lower transport costs than before.

There have to be enough potential users present to attract enough content providers and carriers to set up infrastructure and make a potential exchange point profitable, panelists said. That’s not always an easy condition to meet in the rural areas that will need closer IXPs to get the most out of BEAD infrastructure.

“I think that’s going to be a challenge for us as we look at closing the digital divide,” said Ron da Silva, a telecommunications consultant with Network Technologies Global.

But the increased traffic from new fiber connections could also help make new markets for data centers and exchanges points, he noted.

“The two kind of grow up together,” added Peter Cohen, the principal program manager at Microsoft.

Continue Reading

Open Access

Sweden’s Open Access Fiber Deployment Offers Lessons for U.S. Strategy

The country boasts internet penetration with 98% served with Gigabit symmetrical speeds.



Photo of COS Systems CEO Mikael Philipsson from the company.

December 6, 2023 – The former CEO of a fiber deployer in Sweden urged the United States Tuesday to be bolder in broadband deployment, reflecting on the Nordic nation’s aggressive buildout of open access fiber networks that now provide 98 percent of the population with access to gigabit download and upload speeds.

COS Systems CEO Mikael Philipsson, and former CEO of GlobalConnect, highlighted at Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment Summit Tuesday how Sweden’s gigabit broadband strategy drove an open access “fiber race” in the Nordic nation, from which he said the U.S. can learn.

Philipsson called for U.S. network engineers to “plan for 100 percent,” saying if municipalities start to cherry pick which homes they build to, it will result in a fraction of the population likely never being served.

When GlobalConnect was planning its wholesale fiber network, it built fiber to the smallest, most rural locations first, then invited all ISPs to provide services over the network on equal terms, he said.

The Swedish government’s broadband strategy adopted in 2016 encouraged rapid investment and innovation. The government had several initiatives and strategies to encourage private investment in broadband networks, including subsidies and grants for private investment in rural areas, the promotion of public-private partnerships, and encouraging open access networks.

Today, 60 percent of the Swedish market has adopted internet service that utilizes the open access model, with the other 40 percent choosing a vertically-integrated fiber or cable offering that still relies on a wholesale fiber backbone. Due to consumer demand, even the former incumbent, Telia, adopted the open access model in order to maintain its competitive advantage.

Lessons along the way on the open access path

But there were hard lessons learned along the way, Philipsson said, including labor shortages and permitting issues that caused buildouts to stall for 12 to 15 months at a time.

“It’s going to be more expensive and take a longer time than you think,” warned Philipsson.

Fifteen years earlier, leaders of GlobalConnect were deciding whether to pursue an intensive infrastructure rollout. In what would become a defining moment, the team decided to challenge incumbent providers who at the time owned 99 percent of the physical infrastructure in the country, launching a fiber-to-the-home wholesale network with private backing.

The company’s move kicked off a land grab across Sweden, as infrastructure providers raced to compete for a share of the wholesale fiber market.

“It was a fight on the street to get customers,” recalled Philipsson. “We rolled tractors out on the street as a marker to say ‘We will serve this part of the town.’” Within five years, GlobalConnect had addressed two million households across Sweden with a fiber offering, and built its wholesale network to pass one million homes with a 70 percent take rate.

The positive effects of adopting the wholesale model across Sweden were sweeping for service providers, infrastructure providers, and residents, alike. Service providers with big ambitions were able to launch their services nationally with no capital expenditures, he said. Competition drove providers to become more customer centric, offering differentiated pricing models and expanded offerings to separate themselves, he added.

“Partner up with your former competitors, perhaps,” said Philipsson. “Sharing infrastructure is really the end game for digital infrastructure, just like all the other infrastructures.”

Continue Reading

Signup for Broadband Breakfast News

Broadband Breakfast Research Partner