August 2, 2021—The president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association, which hosted the Fiber Connect 2021 conference last week, sat down with Broadband Breakfast to discuss what he sees as the promising future of fiber despite other technology-focused companies pushing their solutions to bridge the digital divide.
Gary Bolton, who has led the organization since November 2020, said in an interview on the first official day of the conference last week that the speed debate currently being discussed in Congress is not adequately addressing what is truly needed for future connectivity.
“Debates about 100 Megabits per second are kind of silly compared to the Gigabit speeds [the FBA] is talking about,” Bolton said.
Congress has been inundated with proposed legislation that would raise the speed threshold to address connectivity gaps exacerbated by the pandemic. In March, the Democrats proposed tiered service level connections, with anything below 100 Mbps download as low-tier. The current federal standard is 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.
Conversation should be on gigabit, not 100 Megabit
Over the course of the Fiber Connect conference, many panels and keynote speakers did not even discuss 100/100 Mbps symmetrical speeds, and instead were talking about the differences between 1 Gbps service and 10 Gbps service, in between discussing the potential of 100 Gbps services.
This is despite some arguing that increasing the speed definition for underserved would actually be a disservice.
Bolton said he believes there are considerable efforts being made by the wireless and cable industries to disrupt progress made by the fiber industry, but he is confident that fiber is gaining momentum across the country.
“Progress is rarely linear—the pendulum swings both ways, but right now it seems to be in our favor.”
But advocates of a more diverse technological approach have suggested that while fiber could lead the way, other technologies provide important compliments. In fact, some have suggested that fixed-wireless – using mobile wireless technologies for home internet — is critical for rural broadband deployment. The Wireless Infrastructure Association, meanwhile, have said that Congress must support multiple technologies for deployment.
Bolton credited new fiber technologies, strategies, and legislation for allowing its price to continue to drop while bandwidth continues to increase—particularly in rural areas that have been historically underserved or unserved.
“Wallstreet is beginning to reward fiber providers, particularly during the pandemic,” Bolton said.
Fiber after coronavirus
Bolton stated that more people are beginning to appreciate and understand the value of highspeed internet, especially when services like telehealth became a matter of life and death for many communities at the height of the pandemic.
He said that in his opinion, certain things will not be the same post-pandemic, “We are never going back to work the same way we were before the pandemic,” he continued, “The future of work and healthcare have been changed forever.”
Fiber Connect 2021 a success
Bolton said he is glad some things are going back to “normal,” and that he was thrilled about the success of the in-person event.
Though he said that he initially harbored some concerns as to whether enough people would turn out for Fiber Connect 2021, he was quickly relieved of those notions when the resort sponsoring the convention asked the FBA to close registration early for fear that their facilities would not be able to accommodate the influx of guests.
Overall, he said that he was very pleased at the level of excitement and interest Fiber Connect 2021 had stirred up, and that he was looking forward to another in-person Fiber Connect 2022.
Tony Thakur: Bandwidth Consumption, 5G and Rural Coverage Will Drive Fiber in 2022
In the coming year, fiber-optic infrastructure will needed to manage and offer increases in bandwidth capacity.
All indications show that we will continue to consume more and more bandwidth in support of our connected online lifestyles.
Without a doubt, the recent move to the hybrid work/learning model and the need to be constantly connected has increased internet usage. And, as video streaming, e-gaming and video conferencing grow in popularity, the drive for more bandwidth will rise.
To deliver much-needed high speed internet service to support these applications, more Fiber will be required to homes and businesses. Fiber infrastructure is capable of delivering huge bandwidth amounts at needed speeds and will be deployed throughout long haul, metro and last mile networks.
Here’s a look at what’s important to telecom networks, some of the drivers behind the rising trend to fiber, and why fiber is here to stay.
What is behind the rising trend to fiber?
There are several drivers, including:
Bandwidth-consuming applications. When multiple devices are running multiple applications simultaneously, bandwidth is quickly used up and buffering and lag can occur. Thus, networks will need to add more and more bandwidth. The FCC Household Broadband Guide cites rough guidelines for broadband speeds needed for various activities. We can expect to see increases of speed from gigabit to terabit in the future.
5G deployments. This is another area where there is significant growth. Ultra-fast networks like 5G will require large bandwidth connectivity from the towers to the Switching Center. Fiber has become the standard for backhaul networks. We will continue to see more fiber deployed as 5G grows.
Rural coverage. Fiber has been widely deployed in the metro areas and for long haul networks. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law November 15, 2021 includes $65 billion in funding for broadband deployment to improve internet services for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities. With more focus on providing high speed internet, there will be more and more fiber deployments in the access or last mile across the country. This trend is likely to continue over the next three to five years, especially in the rural areas where access to the internet is limited to dated technologies and delivery methods. We will see more and more fiber to the home deployments as well.
Fiber technologies to be aware of
Here are some fiber technologies that not only facilitate the additional bandwidth, they simplify processes, enable automation and provide new capabilities:
GPON or Gigabit Ethernet passive optical network uses a single fiber with a point-to-multipoint architecture for the last mile to deliver higher speeds to homes and businesses. GPON was introduced several years ago, with downstream capacity of 2.5 G and upstream of 1.2 G. The newer version, XGS PON, provides additional capability with 10 G symmetrical speeds. Most deployments going forward will employ XGS PON to enable higher bandwidth and speeds.
SD-WAN or software-defined wide-area network technology has been widely adopted in the telecom industry today. Customers can obtain the security, improved performance and diversity from their premise to the cloud and other locations, leveraging multiple circuits. That connectivity can be internet, Ethernet or wireless. The technology also includes orchestration capability that simplifies the operational process. This will continue to be adapted as the workforce shifts to Hybrid remote work environments with more apps and data in the cloud.
SDN or software-defined networking is another technology used for cloud connectivity and other Ethernet-based services. The network is connected to data centers and cloud providers to enable “on-line” type services. For example, the SDN network allows for demand-type services. Bandwidth can increase or decrease in minutes via a portal and customers pay for what they use versus the traditional monthly recurring circuit cost model.
Growing cloud connectivity
More and more organizations continue moving to and using cloud connectivity to access their applications and data that reside in cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google, Oracle, IBM, SAP, Nutanix, Salesforce, Alibaba and others. Improved performance, faster access, and more flexibility to access tools and data are merely a few of the benefits.
While some rely on the internet to reach the cloud, there are drawbacks such as latency, limited bandwidth and less than top-level security. A direct connection to cloud platforms via fiber is more secure, faster and more reliable, thus improving performance for applications and workloads.
The private cloud or data center requires significant investment to build and operate. A cloud connect via fiber enables easy access to applications anywhere in the cloud, from any location. Data can be stored at multiple locations around the world, providing better flexibility.
Technology trends come and go. Remember when people relied on dial-up internet access and carried flip phones, Blackberries or pagers? Yet we sometimes overlook the complexity that goes into deploying new technologies. It is not only about the cool technologies themselves, but so much more. Innovation depends upon talented people who can implement services such as cloud. Truly, it is the people that make the difference in how we successfully adapt to new technologies.
Tony Thakur is the chief technology officer of Great Plains Communications where he guides the company’s technology vision and focuses on expanding and enhancing its robust fiber network. He has over two decades of experience in C-level and senior executive roles in the telecommunications industry. Tony graduated with a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas, Arlington, Texas. This Expert Opinion is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to email@example.com. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
UTOPIA Fiber Pushes into Southern Utah
The expansion will bring fiber-to-the-home to residents of two additional Utahn cities.
WASHINGTON, January 6, 2022 – Community-owned fiber optic network UTOPIA Fiber announced in a press release Wednesday that it will implement fiber-to-the-home service in the Utah cities of Cedar Hills and Santa Clara.
The expansion into Washington County’s Santa Clara marks UTOPIA Fiber’s first expansion into southern Utah.
“We’re really excited to continue our momentum in Utah County and to venture into southern Utah where Santa Clara will become the first all-fiber city in Washington County,” said Roger Timmerman, executive director of UTOPIA Fiber.
This move marks UTOPIA’s 18th and 19th city expansions and comes with a $12 million price tag. Just last month, UTOPIA completed its network in Payson City, Utah. The telecom provides business services in 50 cities.
In all its serviced cities, UTOPIA offers residential speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second and business speeds of up to 100 Gigabits per second – both the fastest respective speeds offered in the U.S. In total, the network provides fiber availability to more than 130,000 businesses and residences across its 50 serviced communities.
In its press release, UTOPIA promoted its expansion by citing research showing that residential and commercial property values increase when they are served by a fiber network. It added that its open access model, which allows infrastructure sharing with other providers, “protects a net-neutral internet without throttling, paid prioritization, or other provider interference.”
UTOPIA Fiber is a Broadband Breakfast Sponsor.
Experts Debate Merits of Open Access Models on Broadband Breakfast Live Event
Keller and Heckman Partner Jim Baller says model could lead to a race to the bottom, but UTOPIA CEO disagrees.
WASHINGTON, December 16, 2021 – Though open access projects are finding success in some parts of the country, some experts remain unconvinced that the model will prove viable for most communities.
During the Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on Wednesday, UTOPIA Fiber Executive Director and CEO Roger Timmerman and Jim Baller, partner at law firm Keller and Heckman LLP partner, debated the merits of the model that allows service providers to use the same infrastructure.
Timmerman, whose UTOPIA Fiber operates an open access model in Utah and southern Idaho, said his company has seen success with open access fiber infrastructure being a sustainable and scalable model to meet whatever demands future technology may place on consumers and businesses.
Sixteen internet service providers use infrastructure built and leased by UTOPIA, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, to offer residential areas up to 10 Gigabits per second symmetrical speeds.
But Baller said he is concerned that shared infrastructure will just force providers to engage in a price war that will lead to a race to the bottom. He painted a picture of an open access model whereby wholesalers who lease their infrastructure to internet service providers find themselves in a kind of purgatory where no one is making any money – the wholesaler is unable to compel ISPs to raise their prices, and the ISPs feel they can only compete by undercutting their competition. He described the situation as “open access run amok.
“I would love to see open access work, I just urge caution, because you need to do hard analysis in a particular market,” said Baller. “Open access may not be something that is possible up front, but it can be over time.
“You have to look at the numbers very carefully and assess what the circumstances are and make your decision based on what is in front of you,” he said. “There is no one size shoe that fits all in these circumstances.”
In response to the criticism that open access will drive prices into the ground, Timmerman said that the largest provider in UTOPIA’s network is also the most expensive. “It has not been a race to the bottom, it has actually been the opposite,” he said.
Timmerman added successful providers are ones “that can differentiate themselves on quality, reputation, consumer privacy,” and added that the nature of the model allows them to do so at a low barrier to entry.
Timmerman described how UTOPIA has been able to “raise the bar” on their standards for accepting ISPs to partner with, and how they have had to “beat [companies] off with a stick,” due to increased interest in working with UTOPIA.
“We want well established, successful companies because we have a lot on the hook – I cannot afford to put [these] assets at risk with some fly-by-night company. We work hand in hand with providers on quality and reputation to make sure that we both win and make sure that cities and participants win.”
For his part, Timmerman conceded that there is no “one size fits all model,” but argued that most communities’ needs can be satisfied through the framework of an open access build.
“We have had a lot of conversations with communities; what [communities] have to bring to the table and what their needs are, and how we might fill all those roles and deliver a successful system.
“The more a city wants and dictates into a project, the more skin in the game they may need to have,” Timmerman added.
Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the December 15, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.
Wednesday, December 15, 2021, 12 Noon ET — How Public Private Partnerships Represent an Opportunity for Broadband Deployment
In the past two years, public and private entities have greatly increased their collaboration to expand broadband access for Americans. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the telecom industry has been forced to find innovative solutions to connect households to essential online services. In this Broadband Breakfast Live Online event, we will explore the factors driving public-private partnerships in telecom and look at where such partnerships can take us next. Various economic and business forces underlie these partnerships. We’ll also discuss the urgent need for these partnerships in the fight to connect the country.
Panelists for this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session:
- Jim Baller, Partner, Keller & Heckman
- Roger Timmerman, CEO, UTOPIA Fiber
- Dwight ‘Doc’ Wininger, Director of External Relations, Allo Fiber
- Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast
- Broadband Partnerships, by Jim Baller et al. for the Journal of Local Government Law
- Public Infrastructure/Private Service, by Jim Baller et al. for the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
- The Era of the Broadband Public-Private Partnership, by Joanne Hovis, Ryland Sherman and Marc Schulhof for the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
- UTOPIA Fiber: A Model Open-Access Network, by Drew Clark, for Broadband Communities
Jim Baller is a partner at Keller & Heckman. He was founder of the US Broadband Coalition, a diverse group that fostered a broad national consensus on the need for a national broadband strategy and recommended the framework that was subsequently reflected in the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan. A consultant to Google’s Fiber for Communities project, he is also the co-founder and president of the Coalition for Local Internet Choice, an alliance that works to prevent or remove barriers to the ability of local governments to make the critical broadband infrastructure decisions that affect their communities.
Roger Timmerman has been serving as UTOPIA Fiber’s Executive Director since 2016 and has been a technology management professional in telecommunications and information technology for over 15 years. Roger has been designing and building networks throughout his career in various roles including Vice President of Engineering for Vivint Wireless, CTO for UTOPIA Fiber, Network Engineer for iProvo, and Network Product Manager for Brigham Young University. Roger earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Information Technology from Brigham Young University.
Dwight ‘Doc’ Wininger (pronounced WINE-ing-grr) has worked on telecommunications policy issues since the 1980s, first as Executive Director of the Nebraska Public Service Commission and then for a variety of private sector providers and consulting firms. He has worked on fiber optic deployments in multiple states and has been a featured speaker at various conferences on rural broadband deployment. In his current position, Wininger is responsible for local, state and federal government relations for ALLO Communications and is also heading up market development for the company’s expansion into the State of Arizona.
Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
- Vague Social Media Laws Create Fear in the Middle East. Can Encryption Tools Help?
- With State Plan and Federal Funds, California in Good Position to Close Digital Divide
- AT&T Speeds Tiers, Wisconsin Governor on Broadband Assistance, Broadband as Public Utility
- Biden Encourages House to Pass Technology Innovation Funding Bill
- Federal Communications Commission Implements Rules for Affordable Connectivity Program
- FTC Mum on Microsoft-Activision Deal, Proposes Review of Merger Guidelines
Signup for Broadband Breakfast
Broadband Roundup4 months ago
Cox’s Wireless Deal with Verizon Dies, Apple Appeals Epic Games Case, AT&T’s Fiber Investment
Broadband Roundup3 months ago
AT&T Hurricane Survey, FCC Announces $1.1B from Emergency Connectivity Fund, Comcast’s Utah Plans
Broadband Roundup4 months ago
Facebook Changes and Second Whistleblower, Comcast’s Spam Call Feature, AT&T Picks Ericsson for 5G
Broadband Roundup4 months ago
O’Rielly ‘Perplexed’ By Delay in Rosenworcel Decision, China Mobile Domesticating Contracts, AT&T Partners with Frontier
Expert Opinion4 months ago
Mike Harris: Investing in Open Access Fiber Optics is Investing in the Future
Spectrum3 months ago
More Experts Weigh In On Possibility 12 GHz Band Can Be Shared with 5G Services
Artificial Intelligence1 month ago
Henry Kissinger: AI Will Prompt Consideration of What it Means to Be Human
Funding4 months ago
Pandemic and Funding Programs Increasing Investments in Broadband and M&A, Conference Hears