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.
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.
Treasury Department Expects Majority of Capital Projects Funds Will Be Spent on Fiber
“We have put our thumb on the scale for fiber,” said Joseph Wender, director the Treasury Department’s broadband fund.
WASHINGTON, April 21, 2022 – The director of the Department of Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund for broadband expansion projects in response to the coronavirus pandemic said Wednesday that most dispensed funds will ultimately go towards fiber-optic broadband projects.
The Capital Projects Fund was established from the reserve of $10 billion dedicated to capital projects enabling work, education and health monitoring when President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act was passed last March.
Recently, questions have arisen surrounding whether Treasury’s 2026 deadline for ARPA funds to be disbursed provides enough time for all projects to receive their necessary federal funding.
Fund director Joseph Wender spoke on how what type of technology he thinks broadband funds from the program will be directed towards, during a conversation with Chip Pickering, CEO of internet and competitive networks association INCOMPAS.
Wender stated that the Treasury is encouraging that fund broadband projects be built with fiber because it is a future-proof technology.
“We have put our thumb on the scale for fiber,” said Wender.
He also stated that working to implement broadband projects using project funds represents an opportunity for governors and state governments to score political wins.
Wender encouraged members of INCOMPAS listening to his conversation with Pickering to be engaged with their state legislatures in the disbursement of project funds and to make sure that not only the most powerful telecom companies have their interests represented by actions of the legislature.
He also confirmed that when entities apply for money from the Capital Projects Fund they do not need to specify the projects they plan to use the money for on their application, and that the Treasury is in constant communication with the Federal Communications Commission as well as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in order to coordinate data necessary to determine where funds should be disbursed.
AT&T Q1 Reflects Fiber Growth, Fixed-Wireless Still Plays Crucial Role for Rural Americans
AT&T executives emphasized role of fixed-wireless as crucial to serving rural Americans.
WASHINGTON, April 21, 2022 – During AT&T’s first quarter call on Thursday, CEO John Stankey noted the decline of older technologies as it expands its fiber builds and continues to invest in fixed-wireless.
During the call, AT&T Chief Financial Officer Pascal Desroches stated that even with the shutdown of 3G services, the company still had its best first quarter in more than a decade with 691,000 postpaid phone net adds and 965,000 postpaid net adds on its network. In the first quarter, AT&T fiber also gained 289,000 net adds, having brought the total AT&T fiber users up to 6.3 million (1.1 million more than Q1 of 2021).
While speaking to investors Thursday, Stankey emphasized that the demand for slower technologies like DSL and cable are continuing to fall. “We do not believe a product that is doing sub-100 [Mbps] is going to be a viable product in the market over the net couple of years based on how we are seeing consumers use the service,” Stankey said.
Similar sentiments have been shared by industry experts and broadband experts since over the past several years, though these assertions were echoed even louder during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the difference between those who could benefit from telehealth, telework, and distance learning services became even more pronounced.
Though fixed-wireless deployment strategies may not be able to deliver speeds as high as fiber, Stankey also did not rule them out. “There are clearly places in more rural areas where fixed wireless will be the best way to send bandwidth out to a customer,” he said. “We believe we can play in those spaces – there will be some former ADSL locations where fixed wireless will be a substantial step up and opportunity, and there [are] going to be places where the government comes in with subsidy in less densely populated areas that fixed-wireless is going to be the solution.”
He added that even though there might be other customers that may be best served by other “niche” broadband products, AT&T will not focus on marketing to these highly specific customers. “I think market performance of what we are able to do as we blanket an area with a robust fixed/fiber broadband service are showing in the numbers that we are putting up in our performance in the market right now.”
Consolidated revenues for the quarter were $38.1 billion with operating income of $5.9 billion.
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