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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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 4 2 | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | 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 | A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 Closing the Digital Divide In Indiana When small providers band together, they can increase their clout and boost regional economies. That's why the Intelligent Fiber Network, a partnership of small telephone companies, is expanding and upgrading its statewide infrastructure. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities I ndependent rural telephone companies are one of the great – and often overlooked – broadband success stories. Hundreds of these small companies, all of which have deep roots in their communities, have built out high-quality broadband, often fiber to the home. Most of them have been assisted in their efforts by the federal universal service high-cost program and many by loans from the Rural Utilities Service. But even with dedication and access to federal support, there are limits to what they can accomplish individually. For one thing, they cover only about one-third of U.S. rural areas. And though many of them "edge out" beyond their territories to provide (unsubsidized) competitive services, they are limited by access to capital, lack of name recognition and small scale. Another problem is that, because their territories are small and remote, their costs of accessing the internet are high. Traditionally, they have depended on large operators for connectivity to the outside world – and that connectivity comes at a high price. It isn't unusual to see a rural telco offer fiber-to-the- home internet services with DSL-type speeds, even though its access network is robust. One strategy many telcos have adopted is forming statewide or regional partnerships to provide the services they must otherwise purchase from third parties. In 2002, 20 independent telcos in Indiana joined to create the Indiana Fiber Network (IFN), recently rebranded as the Intelligent Fiber Network; since that time, IFN has deployed more than 4,500 route miles of fiber optic cable as well as multiple internet points of presence. is middle-mile network provides transport for its member-owners and other operators, reducing their costs for internet access. Other services include capacity leasing and wholesale access. As time went on, IFN expanded beyond its original mission. Today, about half its revenues come from providing competitive fiber access, co-location and transport services in the 80 percent of the state outside its member-owners' territories. In these areas, it serves cell towers, health care providers, educational campuses and large enterprises, among others. More than 4,000 buildings are now on-net, receiving Ethernet service speeds of up to 100 Gbps. ough IFN itself isn't eligible for USF funding, some of its customers, such as rural health care systems, are, and Jim Turner, IFN's CEO, says that funding "helps make some projects more realistic." However, those customers can use their USF funds to pay any provider, so that doesn't put IFN on any different footing from its competitors, such as Comcast, Zayo or AT&T. A GREAT LEAP FORWARD In April, IFN announced that it had begun a multiyear, multimillion-dollar network upgrade

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