April 13, 2021 – Provo, Utah has made significant progress with its Google Fiber partnership, and representative John Curtis, R-Utah, hopes the federal government is paying attention.
Broadband Breakfast spoke with Curtis on Monday to discuss broadband and the lessons he’s taken from the pandemic. He said that the city of Provo is on track with its broadband efforts and that its programs are working. Having formerly served as city mayor for Provo from 2010 to 2017, Curtis oversaw the purchase by Google Fiber of iProvo, the city’s existing fiber internet network.
Announced in a press release on February 16, two of Curtis’ bills, the Federal Broadband Deployment in Unserved Areas Act, and the Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act of 2021, were introduced to facilitate broadband deployment on federal lands and close the digital divide in both rural and urban areas. The bills called to “streamline permitting presses,” as duplicative regulations and inefficient practices have been hampering broadband development thus far, he said.
Federal, municipal regulations a constraint on deployment
Curtis was asked where he thought unnecessary red tape needed to be removed to fulfill rural and urban broadband objectives. He said 90 percent of the rural land in his district is owned by the federal government, making regulation heavy and complicated. In some instances, public lands have taken up to nine years to allow permitting for broadband, and in broadband terms, that’s a lifetime. “We don’t have nine years to get down into these parts of the district,” he said.
To visualize this, if there is an existing asphalt road, broadband cannot run alongside it because it is treated as if there was trench dug underneath Delicate Arch, a historical rock formation, a regulated territory. If rural roads are approved to be built, rural broadband should be approved in a similar and appropriate manner, Curtis said. He added companies like Google, who have vast resources, are still slowed down by the government.
And it’s not the federal government that is always behind roadblocks, but the municipal government can sometimes get in the way. A struggle over telecoms putting up equipment on municipal-owned poles, which are required for broadband and wireless deployment, has been playing out across the country.
Education needs support structure at home
As the country is more than one year into the pandemic, the importance of having adequate and affordable broadband in Utah households is critical, especially for education, Curtis said. Curtis said that the more disadvantaged a household is, the less likely it is to have good internet connectivity. While there are tremendous uses for virtual resources, Utah children need a support structure at home, and not every home has that.
Having poor support at home to stay connected for school, work, and health needs is virtually as bad as not even having a device to connect to the internet in the first place. A benefit of having Google Fiber in Provo, Curtis said, is that households see their internet costs come down and speeds go up as competition is benefitting consumers. Cities are averse to risk, and sometimes lack the capital to invest in broadband, but technology changes so fast that it requires constant upkeep, he said.
Not just about the money
Asked about his thoughts on recent federal legislation, including the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program and the Biden’s $100-billion infrastructure plan (Jobs Act) for broadband, Curtis said it is important to invest in these initiatives, but simply throwing money at the problem won’t solve anything.
He said he wished he could bring Biden to Provo to take a look at Provo’s broadband progress, adding that “creativity and hard work make up for a multitude of sins.”
British Telecoms Are Aligning with Emerging U.S. Position on Open RAN Adoption
Open RAN adoption is said to save telecoms money and boost security, as providers are forced to move off Huawei.
October 18, 2021 – Howard Watson, chief technology officer of telecommunications company BT Group, spoke on Wednesday at the Broadband World Forum about the future of the UK’s network infrastructure, including removing Huawei’s equipment from their networks and developing open radio access networks for wider use.
Speaking at the opening session titled “Building an innovative converged network infrastructure for the UK,” Watson discussed the challenges and possibilities for offering fast, secure broadband and offered O-RAN as a solution for wider connectivity.
Watson discussed utilizing open RAN to facilitate greater interoperability between vendors’ equipment, as it opens the market to more technologies due to its open configuration. The concept advocates for a more open radio access network than provided today, which is held by fewer vendors.
The Federal Communications Commission has pushed for ways to develop open RAN to minimize network security risk, as the movement has gained significant momentum since Huawei was banned over the past 18 months. FCC Acting Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has described open RAN as having “extraordinary potential for our economy and national security.”
“When customers go back into the office, the infrastructure they left behind must have key growth” Watson said, referencing the shift in office culture toward remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Expectations of customers change,” Watson said, adding that “they expect broadband to be always on, they expect high bandwidth.” Above all, “they expect investment no matter the cost.”
BT is seeking to deploy to 90 percent coverage in the UK by 2028.
On the sidelines of his keynote address, Watson noted BT’s progress in limiting Huawei products to 35 percent of an operator’s fiber access footprint by 2023. The UK government requires that Huawei’s equipment must be removed entirely by the end of 2027. The UK considers Huawei a “high risk” vendor for its network infrastructure.
However, BT is waiting for Huawei’s equipment to grow old before replacing it, Watson said. “Our intention is to ensure that we get the full economic life out of the Huawei [products] that we have deployed,” he said. He said BT believes the products can be used until 2031 or later.
“We’re in talks with government about that timeline” Watson said.
Panel discussion about European fiber investment
Watson said that “densification” happens in areas that are fiber rich, so “providing fiber to smaller cell sites is naturally an evolution.”
He said that BT is looking at a range of alternatives including Wi-Fi solutions to getting 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) capability to household through open architecture-based solutions.
In addition to Watson, a panel focused on the investment parameters for fiber investment featuring officials from Macquarie Group and Eurofiber.
The panel focused on investment challenges and strategies for broadband infrastructure investment and discussed an opportunistic vision for broadband deployment. Speaking of more mature market with a history of broadband adoption, Macquarie Managing Director Oliver Bradley asked how providers could transition to more efficiency and maximizing the value of an existing network.
Among the principal drivers for investment include co-investing and deregulation, he said.
UTOPIA Fiber Goes to Court in Utah Over American Fork’s Build Permit Refusals
Fiber builder says it has been denied permits that have harmed it and its customers, despite an existing city agreement.
October 13, 2021 – UTOPIA Fiber filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the city of American Fork in Utah for breach of contract after the city allegedly denied build permits to the fiber builder despite there being an existing contract between the two parties.
The fiber provider, which runs an open network on which private telecoms rent space on to provide services, alleges the city had approved some permits that only allowed it to construct backbone transport lines through the city connecting other cities, but denied it key permits that would have allowed it to extend services to UTOPIA Fiber customers inside the city. Those services include connections to American Fork’s public schools.
In July 2020, the city allegedly terminated the 2018 rights-of-way agreement with no explanation, the lawsuit claims. It also alleges that the city specifically discriminated against UTOPIA Fiber by adding additional scrutiny to its permit requests when it believed no such scrutiny existed for other providers.
Broadband Breakfast attempted to make contact with the city, but a phone call was not answered and a voicemail message was not returned by the time of publication.
“American Fork’s refusal to approve permit requests by or for UTOPIA for service laterals for customers within American Fork has harmed UTOPIA, its customers, and the private ISPs who wish to offer services within American Fork using UTOPIA’s Network,” the lawsuit said. “In some cases, UTOPIA has been forced to buy capacity from other network providers that are allowed to install infrastructure in American Fork, so that UTOPIA can fulfill existing contracts with its customers.
“In other cases, UTOPIA has been forced to cancel existing customer orders for connections within American Fork and has lost significant revenues as a result,” the suit added. “UTOPIA has also recently been forced to cancel or reject over a dozen additional customer orders because UTOPIA is unable, due to American Fork’s conduct, to obtain the permits needed to fulfill those orders, and again lost significant revenues as a result.”
In a press release, UTOPIA’s executive director Roger Timmerman said the lawsuit was a “last resort and not an easy decision to make.
“It is our hope that with judicial review, American Fork City will reverse its policies, work within the boundaries of the law, and ultimately, act in the best interest of the people and businesses in American Fork City by allowing them access to the increased options UTOPIA Fiber provides,” Timmerman added.
UTOPIA Fiber is asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah to force the city to pay the company damages sustained as a result of the alleged actions, to find the city violated the law with respect to its actions, and to force the city to cease the alleged “discriminatory and preferential actions” against the company.
UTOPIA Fiber, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, has designed, built, and operated more than $330 million worth of fiber projects in the state since 2009.
Comcast Business Says It’s Expanding Into Fiber Builds in Greater Washington Area
The company is putting millions more into fiber infrastructure in the Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia areas.
WASHINGTON, October 6, 2021 – Comcast’s business division announced a two-year, $28-million investment to expand fiber through the beltway region of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.
The company said in a press release Wednesday that $13 million of that was invested last year and $15 million have gone into projects that are underway or planned for this year. It is expected to connect nearly 7,000 additional businesses to speeds of up to 100 Gigabits per second for large businesses, it said, adding it’s all part of the $110 million Comcast Business has spent in the area since 2015.
The expansion is part of a larger effort by telecommunications companies in this country to drive fiber to the premises, and to get ahead of the next generation 5G networks. As this is happening, more federal and state dollars are being plowed into broadband infrastructure as President Joe Biden sets his sights on providing access to high-speed internet to 100 percent of the country by the end of the decade.
“The ability to offer both diversity of network and carrier is becoming increasingly important to help drive economic development and transformation,” Ed Rowan, senior director of Comcast Business sales operations in the region, said in the release.
“Connectivity is at the core of this and, more than ever, is an integral factor as businesses expand and prepare for what’s next. Our network expansions across Comcast’s Beltway Region are the latest example of the significant technology investments we’ve made to increase the availability of our multi-Gigabit Ethernet services,” he added. “These investments will help foster economic development, transform our local communities, and better meet next-generation capacity needs across the region.”
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