Broadband Communities

MAY-JUN 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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FTTH DEPLOYMENT 2 0 | 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 AY / J U N E 2 0 1 9 Is Fiber at the Tipping Point? Medina County, Ohio, is trying a new model for nancing and building rural broadband. If the model succeeds, it may be adaptable to other localities. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities D uring the last several years, ber broadband deployment in the United States has reached new heights. Driven by rising bandwidth needs and wired-wireless synergies, all major telephone carriers have now committed – to di•erent degrees – to delivering ber services in large portions of their territories. Capital markets once hostile to FTTH are underwriting this expansion as long as 5G wireless is promised as part of the package. Small telephone companies continue to tap the Universal Service Fund and RUS loans to build out ber to customers. Electric utilities that invested in ber infrastructure for smart grids, as well as municipalities that invested in ber for institutional networks, are leveraging those assets for community broadband. WISPs, capitalizing on customer loyalty, are beginning to make strategic ber investments. Property developers are nancing ber networks as part of their overall developments. Even some cable companies are transitioning to FTTH in areas where they face competition from telco ber. 'JUST DO IT' Œis patchwork system of nancing and ownership, and an equally patchwork set of federal, state and local policies and subsidies, inevitably creates gaps. Even after a massive building spree, ber broadband is available to only about 30 percent of U.S. households, and the FCC estimates that 21.3 million Americans lack access to 25 Mbps /3 Mbps broadband. (Œis is almost certainly an underestimate; Microsoft data shows that 162.8 million people do not use the internet at 25 Mbps /3 Mbps speeds.) Many communities have been left out in the cold. Small, nonmetropolitan communities with no locally based ISPs, few ber assets and little access to capital markets are most likely to be underserved or entirely unserved with broadband. Œousands of them have conducted feasibility studies, sought private partnerships or public grants, and studied other options for improving their broadband service. Œough there have been notable successes (many reported in this magazine), most of these e•orts have led nowhere. However, there have always been industry leaders in the "just do it" camp – those who insist that good broadband, and usually ber, is always feasible, if only because its benets are so great. Œey argue that communities should spend less time debating feasibility and more time nding creative solutions, developing workable plans and generating local support. For example, as early as 2008, Timothy Nulty, then CEO of ValleyNet, told the B ROADBAND COMMUNITIES Summit that rural ber was feasible because the disadvantages – sparse population, low incomes – were counterbalanced by low real estate costs and high take rates. Œough his e•orts were temporarily derailed by the recession that took hold that year, he succeeded in bringing FTTH to many tiny Vermont communities, using previously untried nancing and deployment methods. (He has now moved on to an even more rural part of Vermont.)

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