Broadband Communities

MAR-APR 2019

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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COMMUNITY BROADBAND | 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 | M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 9 Finding Middle-Mile Connections The biggest challenge municipal networks face may be connecting to the public internet. Here's a guide to overcoming that challenge. By Offir Schwartz / Capcon Networks R ural municipalities often face uphill battles in modernizing their broadband connectivity to meet the needs of their communities. Because of their lower population densities compared with urban areas and the high cost of building networks with lower economic value, these communities often fail to attract investment from service providers. When rural towns decide to tackle the problem by building their own networks, they must deal with many more challenges than larger, denser cities. One is connecting their networks to the outside world in a cost- effective way. Geography is one of the biggest challenges in connecting or sourcing the middle mile for rural towns. Most urban communities have several wholesale service providers to choose from – typically, the local exchange carrier and cable MSO may have fiber within 1,500 feet, and several other competitive providers and pure-play wholesale fiber providers may also have fiber nearby. But the more rural an area is, the fewer options exist. Middle-mile providers avoid remote communities with low residential and business density for the same reason last-mile providers stay away: Compared with building in urban markets, the prospect of expanding into rural communities is expensive and unattractive. e disadvantages inherent to rural towns – geography, low population density and lack of fiber density – compound one another to make sourcing middle-mile transport unusually difficult for rural municipalities. In addition, incumbents that might provide backhaul generally aren't thrilled with the prospect of losing market share. ey may view municipal network initiatives as competitive threats and resist working with municipalities on sourcing middle-mile transport and/or lobby to fight them in their quest to modernize. e good news is that despite these challenges, over the last several years costs for backhaul services have decreased and are no longer major deterrents for municipalities. Instead, navigating tricky relationships, finding fiber resources and managing the overall complexities in the fight to modernize have become more problems of logistics and expertise – still often a daunting task for most municipalities that already face many challenges and complexities in building and operating fiber networks. BUILDING A MIDDLE-MILE BLUEPRINT To determine the best options for high-speed internet access to a community, the following steps are considered best practices. 1 Create a hit list. Local exchange carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and Frontier can sometimes serve as viable options for the middle mile. If they are, exhaust those options first, then create a list of all potential options, not only in your immediate service area but also well beyond, including in adjacent counties. 2 Zoom out geographically and get creative. With a list of targets in striking

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