BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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38 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | MARCH/APRIL 2016 TECHNOLOGY Old-Fashioned Thrift Memo to community broadband folks: Mind your money. By Dan Grossman / NetAccess Futures G ood engineering has an element of old- fashioned thrift. Remember these old sayings? "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." "A penny saved is a penny earned." "Waste not, want not." "Money doesn't grow on trees." "Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves." "Te bitterness of poor quality outlasts the sweetness of low price." For capital-intensive infrastructure projects, thrift is a paramount virtue. All too often, community broadband deployments cost more than they have to for reasons that add little value. BroadBand Communities readers understand the difculty of funding these vital projects. Municipalities that seek to build broadband infrastructure must cobble together fnancing plans from various sources of money. Finding the money requires time and efort. Fundraising sometimes falls short of project cost estimates, killing or delaying projects. Potential lenders and bond ratings agencies scrutinize time to positive cash fow. Funding a broadband project can afect other community priorities. Most important, the public ultimately pays the project cost – it's their money and their trust. For those reasons, every dollar of capital expense and future operating expenses must be spent wisely. Tis is more than an admonishment to spend money ethically and responsibly. Public ofcials must have a clear-eyed understanding of what the project is supposed to accomplish. Tey must eliminate or postpone anything not critical to that mission, and they must optimize for low life-cycle cost with high value. Proponents of community broadband often see it as a way to create competition, overthrow the incumbent monopolies, enable anybody to create killer applications, unlock hidden creativity, actuate democracy, revolutionize the economy, empower citizens and save the world. Pragmatically, those are not goals that communities need to set for themselves. Tey have a concrete, immediate problem: lack of adequate broadband service at reasonable prices with good customer support. Tis problem, with its familiar litany of symptoms – frustrated citizens, businesses impeded or driven away, kids doing their homework in the library parking lot at night, adults unable to telecommute, depressed property values, and so forth – is self-evident. Solving it should be the laser-like focus of the business plan, network architecture and budget. Overreaching goals and technology misunderstandings lead planners into fallacies, which lead to overly expensive projects. Here are some examples: • "As long as we're putting in fber, we might as well put in lots of it in fat cables. Who knows what we might want it for later?" Fiber-rich deployment is appropriate where trafc is highly aggregated and connectivity is limited to relatively few end points: in the middle mile, in the long haul, between data centers and for enterprise customers. It doesn't scale well to residential and small-business access networks, which must fan out over broad geographies. Te lifetime cost of more fber in these applications mounts quickly for a lot of not-always-obvious reasons. In addition, a looming global supply shortage of optical fber portends higher prices for high-fber- count cables in the near future. Last-mile