Broadband Communities

SEP 2018

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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A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | 3 3 Community Technology Advisors conducted the primary field research for this study in the summer of 2017. Using base maps and a GPS-enabled camera to take pictures of various electronics boxes located in public rights-of-way, we mapped CAF II–funded improvements within the two exchanges. Electronics boxes clearly identified as electric utility, railroads or traffic/lighting control devices were not mapped. Where boxes could not be definitively identified, we assumed they were digital subscriber line access multiplexers (DSLAMs), possibly overstating the deployment of electronics and the resulting service areas. DSLAMS are the field electronics that connect newly deployed fiber lines and the existing copper lines that connect to customers. Because neither provider responded to requests for comments and corrections on this report, our conclusions are based on observations of field deployments. Prospective service areas surrounding the DSLAMs are indicated with 3,000- foot radius and 9,000-foot radius circles. It is likely that customers within 3,000 feet of a DSLAM will be able to receive broadband services at or above 25 Mbps/3 Mbps; those within 9,000 feet of the DSLAM will be able to receive at least 10 Mbps/1 Mbps. Possible limitations in this approach include the following: 1 Copper lines do not radiate directly from a DSLAM but follow the roads. Each turn adds distance that limits deliverable capacity. 2 Broadband speeds vary greatly depending on the condition of the copper lines. It would not be unusual for copper lines in rural areas to be at or even beyond the ends of their expected useful lives. Conversely, copper lines could be of higher quality than assumed. 3 One or more DSLAMs could have been missed in this field inventory. 4 Spare copper pairs that would allow two or more pairs of copper lines to be bonded together may be available. 5 Ongoing technical improvements in electronics and software could allow for future improvements in DSL capabilities. Despite these uncertainties, we believe this methodology provides a reasonably accurate picture of the impact of these deployments. is confidence is backed up by ongoing conversations with rural broadband customers across the state in community and regional meetings, with many interactions documented through emails and video testimonials. UNDERSTANDING THE NETWORKS e CAF II–funded, fiber-connected electronics within these service areas are "nodes" or DSLAMs connected by fiber to the providers' central offices; existing copper telephone lines serve as the last mile (or more) from nodes to customer premises. e quality of internet service over copper degrades with distance. at means homes closer to the node will have faster service. Homes or businesses within 3,000 feet of a node can generally experience sustained speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps or more. Properties within 9,000 feet can generally experience speeds of at least 10 Mbps/1 Mbps. Beyond 9,000 feet, properties generally will experience speeds slower than 10 Mbps/1 Mbps. e maps of the two exchanges suggest two challenges for communities in CAF II areas: • First, the newly built CAF II– funded networks do not provide service that meets Minnesota's state speed goals, which are 25 Mbps/3 Mbps by 2022 and 100 Mbps/20 Mbps by 2026, to all households. • Second, the lack of transparency from CAF II recipients about their network deployment plans makes it difficult for communities to do their own planning and leverage public investment. FRONTIER'S LINDSTROM EXCHANGE e Lindstrom exchange includes most of Chisago Lakes, a scenic area straddling U.S. Highway 8, including the towns of Chisago City, Lindstrom, Center City and Shafer. e community has a small-town or exurban feel; it has an excellent school system and easy access to Twin Cities metropolitan area work opportunities. e numerous lakes, wetlands, woods and small farms make living outside the boundaries of incorporated cities attractive. e rural residents are widely and generally evenly dispersed across the exchange, with higher densities around the many recreational lakes. In a 2015 survey of more than 800 county households, • 27 percent said they used the internet to operate their businesses. • 31 percent said they would start home businesses with better internet. • 35 percent said they would telecommute with better internet service. • 45 percent said they would use the internet for educational purposes. • 86 percent said they would use the internet for all kinds of purposes if it was available. Each Frontier DSLAM connected by fiber optic cabling was verified based on the easily identifiable fiber optic cable pole markers. Frontier fiber was generally installed along each paved county road in the exchange. For the most part, Frontier utilized a standardized equipment installation throughout the exchange, with a Studies of upgrades to two Minnesota exchanges show that carriers are installing fiber to the node, and few households will have access to broadband speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.

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