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.
- Mark Boxer, Applications 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.
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
New Public Broadband Association Criticizes NTIA Rules, Boasts Strong Start for New Group
While praising some aspects of NTIA rules, the group said that “we can’t take a victory lap quite yet.”
KEYSTONE, Colorado, May 24, 2022 – The America Association of Public Broadband on Tuesday praised many aspects of the U.S. Commerce Department’s rules for spending the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, but criticized some aspects of the regulations that will make it hard for cities to build broadband projects.
In a statement and press briefing at the Mountain Connect conference here, officials representing the association said that the $42.5 billion in spending under the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program will “go a long way to address the high-speed broadband access and equity gaps plaguing American communities.”
The group is chaired by Angela Imming, who is responsible for a municipal broadband project in Highland, Illinois. The other four officers of the organization represent cities of Kitsap, Washington, Traverse City, Michigan, UTOPIA Fiber in Utah, and the town of Ridgefield, Connecticut.
The statement and press conference were conducted by Kim McKinley, UTOPIA Fiber’s chief marketing officer and secretary of AAPB, and Bob Knight, a commissioner of economic and community development in Ridgefield and a member of the AAPB board.
But AAPB, a new lobbying group that aims to represent the interest of municipalities seeking to build high-capacity broadband, also highlighted many problems.
“But we can’t take a victory lap quite yet,” said McKinley and Knight on behalf of the group. In particular, “these challenges include a cumbersome application process with a letter-of-credit requirement which serve as steep barriers to entry for local government, nonprofits, and small ISPs.”
“Additionally, the multi-year rollout of BEAD funds leaves many high-speed broadband projects out in the cold, limiting the options for those deploying prior to 2024.”
Referring to comments that Alan Davidson, administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said earlier on Tuesday, the group said, “We were pleased to hear Assistant Secretary Davidson say at Mountain Connect today that more refinement will be necessary and that the NTIA team is on the case. We look forward to working with NTIA to ensure that the interests of local, regional, and state entities are heard and acted upon.”
The association was first announced on May 4 at the Broadband Communities Summit, and the group provided updates on its progress on Tuesday.
In the three weeks since the association’s announcement, the organization said that $200,000 had been raised from the equipment vendor and non-profit community.
The group now has an advocacy and policy group that is working with federal and state leaders to advance the interests of municipal broadband, an education group, and a membership group.
UTOPIA’s Projects Proceeding in California and Montana, CEO Says
Both the GSCA and Yellowstone Fiber are using UTOPIA’s techniques to provide open access broadband over fiber.
HOUSTON, May 4, 2022 — UTOPIA Fiber’s open access model has found success in California, Montana, and Idaho as it continues to deploy across Utah, the company’s CEO said Wednesday.
“Right now, we are working with [Golden State Connect Authority] to identify various pilot areas for the project and have started preliminary engineering work to determine the initial project area,” Roger Timmerman said at the Broadband Communities Summit 2022.
During the press conference, Timmerman also pointed to UTOPIA’s expansion into Santa Clara, Utah, and its completion of its original 11 Utah cities by the end of 2022.
Timmerman was joined by partners Barbara Hayes of the Golden State Authority and Yellowstone Fiber CEO Greg Metzger as they delivered remarks on their joint ventures. The partnership will create the largest publicly owned fiber network in the US, and as it stands now, would span 38 of California’s 58 counties.
“California may be the world’s fifth-largest economy, but our state’s connectivity is decades behind,” Hayes said. “Investing in open access fiber will be transformative for California.”
Both Metzger and Hayes emphasized that their decision to partner with UTOPIA was largely informed by the company’s track record.
“We needed to have a partner who was successful and had done it before,” Metzger said. “For Montana, this is going to be a breath of fresh air.”
Yellowstone Fiber, formerly known as Bozeman Fiber, is a not-for-profit that will replicate UTOPIA’s open access model to provide broadband to the greater Bozeman region; it will own and operate the fiber but will rely on UTOPIA for assistance on the backend.
UTOPIA’s model of open access has long been a point of interest in the telecom industry. While some claim it will be a solution to the digital divide, other assert that it has merely created a “race to the bottom” where internet service providers are constantly pushed to undercut their completion. Timmerman and others have pushed back against the “race to the bottom” assertion, claiming that providers can find ways other than price to distinguish themselves from their competition, such as superior customer service. Additionally, they point to their recent track record as evidence that critics’ concerns that they can maintain a positive cash flow are unfounded.
Though UTOPIA, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, now has positive revenue and has served as a model for open access projects around the country, critics still point toward its more than $300 million in outstanding debt it accrued in its early days, before Timmerman was at the helm.
Municipalities Generally Prefer Not to Own Broadband Builds, Conference Hears
Broadband leaders note cities prefer to partner than to own networks.
HOUSTON, May 3, 2022 – During a panel discussion Monday, broadband implementation leaders said local governments are often much more willing to help a partner organization establish a broadband network than they are to oversee construction themselves.
Speaking at Broadband Communities Magazine’s 2022 summit in Houston, Kenrick Gordon, director of the Maryland Office of Statewide Broadband, said “most local governments don’t really want to own a broadband network” and prefer to partner up and support the build.
Gordon spoke alongside Deb Socia, the CEO of the Enterprise Center, a non-profit infrastructure partner based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is known as the “gig city” for its city-owned gigabit fiber network.
When asked about what makes a bad partner organization for local governments in infrastructure projects, Socia, who formerly led internet-expansion organization Next Century Cities, said those who are not trusted by members of the community will not make effective broadband providers.
Many organizations have the potential to overpromise to community members, for example giving earlier timelines for broadband builds than is required, Socia said. Gordon added it is common that the expectation among some community members is that broadband projects can be built faster than other infrastructure.
Socia said trust can be garnered from the public by using a consistent script between all involved organizations, such as utilities and city government offices, so that questions can be answered in the same manner with accurate information.
She also outlined how Chattanooga was able to promote its broadband network on trusted and popular local radio stations, increasing familiarity with it in the community through on-air discussions.
Both Socia and Gordon, as well Catharine Rice, project director for the Coalition for Local Internet Choice, stated the importance of maintaining relationships and partnerships, with Rice emphasizing the need to frequently speak to state broadband offices as they generally are quite interested in working to be helpful and improve how they do their job.
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