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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BROADBAND APPLICATIONS 6 6 | 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 Broadband for Rural Businesses Rural providers are taking aim at rural businesses with fiber and DOCSIS 3.1–based broadband services. But providers must educate this segment about using these new services to become more viable in the online world. By Sean Buckley / Broadband Communities W ith most business broadband deployments taking place in large metro areas, rural businesses often lack affordable broadband options. However, there are signs that change is underway, and rural providers are finding cost-effective ways to extend fiber and DOCSIS 3.1 to business customers. Farmers are especially impacted by poor broadband service. According to the USDA report "Farm Computer Usage and Ownership, 2017," 29 percent of U.S. farms have no internet access. A September 2018 Illinois Farm Bureau study revealed that although three-quarters of respondents had residential internet access, their business broadband performance was poor. Further, two-thirds said broadband service quality "negatively impacted" their farming business. Inadequate broadband keeps farmers from implementing new precision agriculture methods, which are necessary for both competitiveness and environmental protection. However, farmers aren't the only group lacking good broadband options. Broadband availability affects all kinds of rural businesses. Jamie Belcore Saloom, assistant chief counsel for telecommunications for the U.S. Small Business Administration, said during the Incompas Policy Summit in February that rural small businesses cite a lack of broadband as a key issue. "Our office has published research showing that small businesses – particularly in rural areas – tend to pay more for lower-quality services than bigger businesses," Saloom said. She added that "policies that encourage more [providers] deploying more broadband to encourage companies to invest in places that are hard to reach" can bridge the rural business divide. CLOSING THE BUSINESS FIBER GAP A key gap in the rural business services market is the fiber available to business buildings. By making fiber available to more commercial buildings, carriers will narrow what Vertical Systems Group (VSG) calls the fiber gap. GUIDELINES FOR RURAL BUSINESS BROADBAND PROVIDERS • Speed: Service providers should offer a range of speed packages, whether they offer fiber or coax-based services. A symmetrical-speed service offers consistent download and upload speeds that businesses need to rapidly exchange large files and support managed services. • Price: Small rural businesses have historically been overcharged for poor service, and because they have limited budgets, they seek lower prices. However, price/performance is the more relevant measure. Providers need to help customers understand that a higher-priced, symmetrical service may be more economical than a low-cost service because it provides greater reliability and reduces downtime. • Availability: As service providers deepen their rural business broadband footprints, they will need to get the word out to local business communities that they offer services.

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