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At Launch of #BroadbandLive Series on ‘Tools for Broadband Deployment’, Panelists Tout Symmetrical Fiber

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November 3, 2020 – Broadband networks have had their greatest challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, and sometimes fail in meeting the challenge of upstream speed needs, said Gary Bolton, vice president of ADTRAN, speaking during the kickoff event of Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s “Tools for Broadband” on October 21.

After the event that Wednesday at 12 Noon ET, Fiber Broadband Association Chair Katie Espeseth announced that Bolton had been named the new president and CEO of the association, which represents the fiber-building industry, replacing Lisa Youngers, who is going on to another opportunity in the industry.

Speaking with Bolton on the panel were Laurel Leverrier, acting assistant administrator of telecommunications programs in the Agriculture Department’s Rural Development division and NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield.

There have been many new entrants to the rural broadband scene recently, said Bloomfield, who was worried that these entrants set the bar too low for rural broadband quality. “We shouldn’t just say “good enough” is okay.”

Bolton also stressed the need for better broadband with higher capacities. New marketplace entrants with a community-focused approach are motivated to provide gigabit service because that’s what communities need to stay connected, he said.

USDA has pushed high speed symmetrical services from a mandate for 10 Mbps /1 Mbps

Asked by Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark about how USDA was making use of its mandate to permit broadband only in areas in which there isn’t internet connectivity available at 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) down and 1 Mbps up, and yet urge its delivery at a rate of at least 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, Leverrier said most projects are providing speeds considerably higher than the baseline.

Given the number of people who have questioned whether 25 Mbps/3 Mbps (let alone 10 Mbps / 1 Mbps) is adequate, Leverrier said the USDA adjusted its scoring metrics to give additional points to those who include 100 Mbps symmetrical service.

She said that more than 70 percent of the agency’s ReConnect projects are giving at least 100 Mbps symmetrical service.

Bloomfield acknowledged that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution for rural areas and that while she is a big proponent of fiber and building with the long term in mind, some communities might need to start with coverage that will have to be upgraded in two years just to get them connected sooner.

She shared that she personally prioritizes smaller carriers because they are more likely to get the job done sooner than large carriers that have a lot of demand.

Panelists agreed that the USDA has one of the best boots on the ground operations nationwide. Bloomfield held up USDA’s approach to broadband mapping as an example for how to ensure people got connected.

She also emphasized the importance of unserved areas contesting FCC maps that claim coverage in areas that are not actually covered.

Clark, referring to his experience as executive director of the non-profit Partnership for a Connected Illinois, the state broadband initiative entity, lauded the importance of the USDA’s state-wide presence in facilitating better-coordinated broadband efforts for rural America.

Although Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association was also scheduled to be on the panel, technical difficulties precluded his participation. Broadband Breakfast aims to invite Matheson for a subsequent event.

Tools for Broadband Deployment

Tools for Broadband Deployment: This series explores the way that geospatial data and asset management is shaping the future of rural network delivery and performance. This series explores how market-leading fiber builders are using digital tools to map, analyze, manage and deploy new networks – with a focus on rural success stories.

Events in “Tools for Broadband Deployment” series, which is sponsored by ADTRAN and Render Networks, include:

“Tools for Broadband Deployment” is sponsored by:


Render Networks

Reporter Liana Sowa grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. She studied editing and publishing as a writing fellow at Brigham Young University, where she mentored upperclassmen on neuroscience research papers. She enjoys reading and journaling, and marathon-runnning and stilt-walking.

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.

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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 join.

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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.

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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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COVID Funds Ensuring NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Funding Adequate: Conexon Executive

‘The way you close the digital divide is you build fiber to every single rural home,’ Jonathan Chambers said.

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Photo of Jonathan Chambers, partner at Conexon

WASHINGTON, October 17, 2022 – Millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, which are currently being deployed by states to extend broadband networks, is helping ensure that new broadband money allocated from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act will be sufficient to extend fiber to all homes in America, said a telecom executive on a Fiber Broadband Association web event Wednesday.

Since many states are using ARPA funding to deploy new networks, fewer than ten million locations will “be left for BEAD after ARPA,” said Jonathan Chambers, partner at rural internet service provider co-op Conexon, referring to the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Since the American Rescue Plan became law in March 2021, federal programs – including the Capital Projects Fund and the Emergency Connectivity Program – and state governments have put tens of billions of ARPA-appropriated dollars towards broadband various projects.

Chambers, whose company builds fiber networks and works primarily with rural electric cooperatives, said he wants to refute the arguments of fiber skeptics by going “to the hardest-to-serve, poorest places in the country and demonstrate you can build fiber there,” saying the company is working to build a fiber network to every home and business in East Carrol Parish, Louisiana.

An argument against fiber builds in rural areas has been the expense required to do so.

The BEAD program will dispense block grants to the states based on relative need. States will issue subgrants for broadband infrastructure and other projects. Pro-fiber advocates like Chambers and FBA President Gary Bolton support using these funds primarily for fiber deployments.

“The way you close the digital divide is you build fiber to every single rural home,” Chambers said.

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