Fiber Broadband and Rural Broadband Associations Call on NTIA to Prioritize Fiber in Funding Grants

Gary Bolton and Shirley Bloomfield called on NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson to prioritize applicant investing in “future-proof” fiber.

Fiber Broadband and Rural Broadband Associations Call on NTIA to Prioritize Fiber in Funding Grants
Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of the NTCA, and Gary Bolton, CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2022 – Fiber broadband advocates appealed to National Telecommunication and Information Administration leadership to adopt an “all hands on deck approach” that prioritizes fiber infrastructure as the organization works to finalize the notice of funding opportunity for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program.

In an open letter to the NTIA’s Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson, the CEO of Rural Broadband Association NTCA, Shirley Bloomfield, and Fiber Broadband Association CEO Gary Bolton called on the NTIA to “Prioritize funding for future proof, all-fiber networks.”

In the letter, Bloomfield and Bolton emphasized that the digital divide cannot be solved by “adopting half-measures” that will provide a temporary solution to the broadband needs facing Americans living and working with insufficient broadband.

“These households deserve the same high performance broadband service – all-fiber networks – that has been deployed to over 50 million residences and that providers are rolling out, and will continue to roll out, to millions more annually,” they said.

The letter echoed the FBA’s slogan: “In a very real sense, the market has spoken: if it is not fiber, it is not broadband. The NTIA, therefore, should define ‘Priority Broadband Projects’ as all-fiber projects and ensure that application committing to build these future proof networks are given a substantial preference in any scoring or weighting.”

The letter also addresses criticisms that all-fiber approaches are not technology neutral. “Being technology-neutral does not mean we should not account for the capabilities of each technology,” it said. “The reality is that the capabilities of all-fiber networks far outpace any other technology, both in proven (rather than speculative) performance and their ability to keep pace with rapidly evolving consumer demands.”

The letter stated that the BEAD program – which is responsible for $42.5 billion of the $65 million IIJA – should prioritize applicants that commit to high penetration rates and assist communities with digital literacy and subscription issues.

The NTIA has hosted three technical assistance webinars for applicants, with an additional webinar on April 27 and one more on May 11.  The final notice of funding opportunity is to be made public on Monday, May 16.

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