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Fiber Should Lead Future of Broadband, But Other Technologies Important Compliments

More experts weigh in on the fiber debate, but point to other technologies as important for the future of connectivity.

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June 24, 2021—Fiber will be the definitive technology that will help supply increasing broadband demands in the future, a Broadband Breakfast panel heard Wednesday, but complimentary technologies also play an important role.

Broadband Breakfast hosted experts on both sides of the border – Gord Reynolds from Infrastructure Ontario and Mark Boxer, applications engineering manager for fiber manufacturer OFS – and discussed how physical infrastructure impacts digital infrastructure.

Boxer said that over the next ten years, bandwidth demands will continue to increase, and that ultimately, fiber will be the primary solution to ensuring that consumers can engage in all the behaviors and activities that they want to.

He also argued that wireless technologies should be used to compliment fiber infrastructure rather than an alternative to fiber, adding more fiber means more flexibility with spectrum allocation, while more wireless would lead to less flexibility because there is only so much spectrum, and jurisdictions need to allocate it differently while every stakeholder is vying for more spectrum.

On Tuesday, experts warned Congress that it shouldn’t go all-in on wired infrastructure, partly because those other technologies add redundancy and resiliency to those hard connections.

Discussions over the past several months have been focused increasingly on the importance and prominence of fiber, which many say is the lifeblood of high-quality networks. In March, Republican South Carolina Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham reintroduced the State Fix Act, which would pledge $20 billion for broadband infrastructure using fiber.

Similar sentiment in Canada’s most populous province

Infrastructure Ontario is an agency of the Government of Ontario and is tasked with facilitating public/private partnerships to build everything from hospitals and highways to telecom networks. Reynolds said IO wants to provide at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload – the federal objective — in every region of the province, with a penetration between 80 and 90 percent—most which IO plans to connect with wired infrastructure.

Even though wired connections are the goal, Reynolds said the perfect should not become the enemy of the good, and that satellite and fixed wireless technologies need to be a part of the solution for the hardest to reach areas.

Boxer echoed many of the points expressed by Reynolds, stating that the infrastructure that is laid today must be able to handle the consumer demands of tomorrow. He pointed to how much consumer usage has changed in just the past several years.

“In a residence, if you’re using Netflix, and [Microsoft] Teams, and cameras, you have to add that all up,” he said. “And as we start doing that, we are seeing the potential trends for gigabit services that are needed.” (Some have expressed skepticism about whether fixed-wireless technologies can supply gigabit speeds.)

Speeds need updating

As it currently stands, the Federal Communications Commission considers broadband to be anything that is capable of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, but Boxer said that in his experience, 25/3 is basically unusable for a family and their pattern of broadband consumption.

“There are so many applications now that use our networks and so many of these applications are using two-way traffic that the higher speed levels become very important,” he said, adding “[OFS has] been on the record in some of the 100/100 proposals that have taken place [to adjust the definition of broadband].”

The Fiber Broadband Association has said that the current speed standard is inadequate, while others have said the speed debate is getting in the way of connecting the un(der)served.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the June 23, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “Roads, Bridges and Broadband: How Physical Infrastructure Impacts Digital Infrastructure”

Though poles and fiber are perhaps the most obvious aspects of infrastructure associate with broadband, telecommunications companies must consider many different features adjacent to broadband. The conversation regarding physical infrastructure begins before telcos can even break ground. Indeed, mapping, “dig once” policies and the physical terrain around roads and towers are all aspects that need to be considered before internet deployment can begin. Join Broadband Breakfast for a session exploring the unique ways that roads, bridges, and other pieces of physical infrastructure shape the deployment of digital infrastructure.

More about Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021 at Broadband Communities Summit

Panelists:

  • Mark BoxerApplications Engineering Manager, OFS Optics
  • Gord Reynolds, Vice President of Commercial Advisory & Strategy, Infrastructure Ontario
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast

Mark Boxer is a Technical, Solutions and Applications Engineering Manager for OFS. In this role, he assists customers deploying fiber in a wide variety of network design scenarios around the world and analyzes trends in telecommunications markets that drive new product innovation. Mark has a BME degree from Georgia Tech, and has spent his 30+ year career in the fiber industry including varied roles in manufacturing and applications engineering for fiber-based products and markets.

Gord Reynolds is currently the Vice President of Commercial Advisory and Strategy at Infrastructure Ontario leading a variety of initiatives to improve utility coordination and accelerate the delivery of broadband across Canada. Prior to this, Gord was the Managing Director of Capgemini’s Canadian Utilities Practice and the Global innovation leader for the Power & Utility sector. He was also a member of Capgemini’s Global Sector Council and spent 8 years as the Global lead for Capgemini’s Smart Energy Services and Digital Utilities Transformation initiatives for the Energy, Utility and Chemicals sector.

Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, also serves as Of Counsel to The CommLaw Group. He has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers negotiate telecom leases and fiber IRUs, litigate to operate in the public right of way, and argue regulatory classifications before federal and state authorities. In addition to representing public and private providers on broadband issues, Drew is actively involved in issues surrounding interconnected Voice-over-Internet-Protocol service, spectrum licenses, robocalling including STIR/SHAKEN, and the provision of video franchises and “over-the-top” copyrighted content.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

Reporter Ben Kahn is a graduate of University of Baltimore and the National Journalism Center. His work has appeared in Washington Jewish Week and The Center Square, among other publications. He he covered almost every beat at Broadband Breakfast.

Fiber

Verizon, Optical Communications Group Wrangle Over Unpaid Bills for Shared Conduit

The Verizon rival is claiming that the telco unfairly charged it for more space than it occupies on its infrastructure.

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WASHINGTON, January 10, 2023 – Fiber service provider Optical Communications Group has filed a petition with the New York Public Service Commission requesting that it stop Verizon from terminating its facilities rental agreement over unpaid bills.

OCG alleges that, for years, Verizon has been charging the telecom inflated prices to attach its fiber wires on Verizon’s infrastructure on Staten Island. OCG says in its complaint in late November that it only rents a small portion of the duct through which its fiber goes, yet it’s allegedly being charged as if it is using the full duct. It claims other service providers are also renting on the same conduit.

Despite “repeatedly” notifying Verizon of the “overbilling,” OCG said Verizon is allegedly refusing to modify the invoices to “reflect the correct billing rates based on the proportional share occupied” and is now threatening to boot the company from its entire network.

“Verizon has threated to terminate OCG’s occupancy license throughout all of Verizon’s network because OCG refuses to pay the improper charges as to certain conduits,” OCG said in its petition, despite claiming that it has made payment on certain of its licenses.

OCG added that Verizon has allegedly “only recently agreed” to conduct inspections, which have yet to be complete, on the conduit to confirm the complaint.

In response to the complaint filed last month, Verizon, which confirmed the inspections are still ongoing, said OCG has an alleged history of failing to pay its bills, and the two parties have been through a carousel of complaints, dispute resolution and more complaints.

“For nearly two decades OCG has engaged in a persistent course of conduct by which it fails to pay Verizon’s standard charges for conduit occupancy and other services, requiring Verizon to expend significant time, expense, and effort in collection attempts, litigation, and regulatory proceedings,” Verizon said.

“Those efforts typically lead, after a protracted period of time, to belated and sometimes partial payments,” the Verizon response adds. “And then the cycle repeats itself as OCG once again goes back to increasing its unpaid indebtedness.”

Verizon says OCG owes it roughly $400,000 in unpaid and “undisputed, past-due conduit occupancy charges,” which it says is equal to 15 months’ worth of undisputed billings. Verizon alleges there’s more unpaid money beyond the $400,000 that has been disputed by OCG and for which the parties are going through a dispute resolution process.

It adds that it estimates the monthly bill to OCG for conduit rental is roughly $27,000 per month, yet OCG allegedly only disputes about $2,000 a month on that. “In recent months only small and sporadic payments have been made against the undisputed monthly charges,” Verizon alleges.

The incumbent said OCG’s petition is ultimately a “red herring” because Verizon’s stipulations in the agreement are “based on a failure to pay undisputed charges. As a result, the issues set forth in the Petition are irrelevant to Verizon’s exercise of its right to terminate OCG’s occupancy.”

OCG filed its petition at the end of a 30-day deadline that Verizon gave it to make full payment of the undisputed amount and to make a commitment to continue making undisputed payments going forward or else it would terminate the agreement, according to Verizon’s submission.

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Municipal Networks and Incumbent Providers Will Compete for Grant Funding in 2023

The cost of remote fiber deployment can be a deterrent, necessitating creative community solutions.

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WASHINGTON, December 28, 2022 — The emerging preference for fiber over competitor technologies is likely to continue in the coming year, with municipal networks playing an important role, said panelists at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday.

“I always think of fiber going into a town as rippling,” said Sean Buckley, editor in chief at Broadband Communities. “It’s not just fiber to the home — it’s fiber to the tower, the business, the school, et cetera.”

Buckley and others were reacting to Broadband Breakfast’s 12 Days of Broadband, a monthly report that included articles about the 12 top issues for broadband in 2022. The first of the 12 days articles was about how “Fiber Finds Its Footing, Offering Future-Proof High Speeds,” by Drew Clark, editor of Broadband Breakfast and moderator of the Wednesday session. Clark said that the strength of the case for fiber was gaining momentum with the federal bipartisan infrastructure investment in broadband.

In many areas, smaller community broadband networks are challenging the monopolies held by large incumbent players.

“Lots of folks are fed up with sort of having no choice or having only one provider, and lots of communities are becoming much more aware of the community broadband model and are looking at exploring that,” said Sean Gonsalves, senior writer for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative.

Gonsalves pointed to Fairlawn, Ohio as a successful example of the community broadband model. The municipal network has been so successful that they recently upgraded all customers to a higher speed tier and simultaneously dropped prices, now offering a symmetrical gigabit connection for $55 per month.

Incumbent networks are sometimes hostile to emerging community broadband networks, Gonsalves said, citing an email where an incumbent network executive said their top challenge was preventing municipalities and nonprofits from accessing grant funding.

Some states will probably “shovel their hundreds of millions of dollars to the big incumbent providers, and then 10 years down the road, people will be scratching their head wondering why we still have the digital divide,” Gonsalves said.

Despite the significance of the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, it is unlikely to be enough to give the whole country access to high-speed connectivity, panelists agreed.

In the coming year, it will be interesting to see whether states “adhere to the letter and spirit of the BEAD law, which says that you’re not able to exclude municipalities and the like from getting access to those to those grant funds,” Gonsalves said.

In some remote areas, fiber’s cost might outweigh the benefits

Federal funding is giving fiber a boost over competitor technologies, but it isn’t necessarily a universal solution.

Deploying fiber to rural areas can be extremely expensive, said Linda Hardesty, editor in chief at Fierce Telecom. For example, a company in Alaska received a $33 million grant to run fiber to just 211 homes and five businesses — meaning that the cost per passing would be more than $200,000, according to Fierce Telecom.

“That exorbitant cost is the reason why fiber has never been run to places like that before, because private companies couldn’t make a business model out of that,” Hardesty said.

Most rural fiber deployments cost far less than the Alaska project, but several other grant winners are undertaking projects that cost tens of thousands of dollars per passing, which Hardesty noted is still exorbitant compared to the typical deployment cost of less than $3,000 per passing.

Proponents argue that the long-term economic and societal benefits of bringing fiber to rural areas outweighs the upfront costs, Hardesty said.

“It’s more expensive to build bike lanes than it is per mile than it is to lay fiber,” Gonsalves said. “Roads, water systems, schools — these are all projects that municipalities take on all the time and so in my mind it’s not really a question of the cost per se. It’s really a question of political will.”

Setting aside the issue of cost, Hardesty questioned whether or not the government is responsible for deploying fiber to remote locations in the first place.

“The government helped get electricity to places that are really remote, and broadband is practically as much of a necessity now as electricity is,” she said. “But then others would say, if you choose to live in a really remote location… you’d have to pay for getting plumbing out there. So why should the government have to pay for your broadband?”

Another challenge in fiber deployment is the broadband workforce shortage, Buckley said. Several industry organizations and community colleges are working together to design and offer training programs, but there is still a need for skilled fiber technicians.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022, 12 Noon ET – New Year Recap: Biggest Stories in Broadband

Join the Broadband Breakfast team and our guests to discuss the biggest stories in broadband in 2022. Plus, we’ll make predictions for what to expect in 2023. We’ll discuss:

  • The first year of implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • How broadband and the hybrid workforce are adapting to the post-pandemic reality.
  • The role of the national broadband map and challenges to it.
  • Key moments in the ongoing fight about online content moderation.
  • The future of broadband infrastructure development in the face of a number of workforce and supply chain challenges.
  • And more!

Make sure to tune in for this special year-in-review Live Online.

Panelists:

  • Sean Buckley, Editor in Chief, Broadband Communities
  • Linda Hardesty, Editor in Chief, Fierce Telecom
  • Sean Gonsalves, Senior Writer and Editor, Community Broadband Networks Initiative, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Sean Buckley is the Editor in Chief of Broadband Communities. Buckley comes to the magazine publishing and conference company after serving nine years as Senior Editor at FierceTelecom, a daily online newletter. He also oversaw FierceInstaller, a weekly publication chronicling trends in network installation. Prior to coming to FierceTelecom, Sean spent eight years at Horizon House publications, serving as senior editor and later as Editor in Chief of Telecommunications Magazine and Telecom Engine. He also had a one-year stint at Current Analysis tracking public sector IT trends.

Linda Hardesty is editor-in-chief at Fierce overseeing the telecom group comprised of FierceWireless, FierceTelecom and FierceVideo. She’s been a trade journalist since the mid-1990s covering the business and technology of telecommunications networks. Prior to Fierce, she wrote for SDxCentral, Communications Technology/CableFax and Cable World.

Sean Gonsalves is a longtime former reporter, columnist and news editor with the Cape Cod Times. He is also a former nationally syndicated columnist in 22 newspapers, including the Oakland Tribune, Kansas City Star and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Washington Post and the International Herald-Tribune. In October 2020, Sean joined the Institute for Local Self-Reliance staff as a senior reporter, editor and researcher for ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative.

Drew Clark (moderator) is CEO of Breakfast Media LLC. He has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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Report Finds Fiber Expansion Driving Gigabit Access to Nearly 98% of Fiber Consumers

The FBA report shows an unprecedented rate of new fiber deployments in 2022.

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Screenshot of RVA CEO Mike Render

WASHINGTON, December 28, 2022 – Almost 98 percent of fiber consumers are offered plans with download speeds of at least 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps), and most of those gigabit plans provide symmetrical service, according to Mike Render, CEO of RVA LLC Market and Research Consulting.

Render presented the results of the Fiber Broadband Association’s 2022 Fiber Provider Report Wednesday at a web event. The report, the completion of which was announced by the FBA last week, shows an unprecedented rate of new fiber deployments in 2022, with more than 7.5 million new homes passed by fiber. The report reflects public company data, provider surveys, Form 477 data, and other sources, Render said.

Fiber now passes 63 million unique homes, the report found. Total fiber passings number 68 million, Render said, a 13 percent year-over-year spike. About 28 million homes are connected to fiber, he added.

In addition to fiber providers, large cable providers have contributed to fiber’s proliferation, Render argued. “They’re still primarily focused on DOCSIS…but there is quite a bit of fiber among [the top five multiple-service providers],” he said. Small providers – comprised of cable companies, cooperatives, municipalities, and others – account for 18 percent of the fiber market, Render said.

Fiber outperforms other technologies by many metrics, Render claimed. While second-place cable is somewhat competitive with first-place fiber’s download speeds, he said, no technology approaches fiber’s upload speeds. For latency, fiber leads second-place cable 60 milliseconds to 115 milliseconds on average, according to RVA’s research.  

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