BROADBAND FUNDING IS BECOMING MORE AVAILABLE, NOW WHAT?
The “Unbundling” of the Network Owner, Network Operator, and Service Providers We predict you will see more and more community broadband networks (including municipal-owned and CoOp/EMC-owned), especially through public-private partnerships. Big Telcos have historically compiled all three in their offering, but this is an incredibly inefficient business model. Because each Telco (service provider) owns its own infrastructure and competes for customers, the ROI is negatively affected. By only promoting the deployment of a single agnostic physical network, the savings are expressed in ether lower prices, more extensive deployment, or both.
Broadband as an Infrastructure Those from a variety of practices outside the industry are beginning to appreciate Broadband as an infrastructure. The services we seek already exist. We just need the infrastructure to reach the service locations for connectivity. At a minimum, there should be universal standards for deployment in the ROW and on poles. We also predict, we will start to see more intelligent and creative programs that compile different underground utilities together (i.e., not just joint trench, but imagine the savings created by fiber deployment in abandoned water mains after replacement). If we want to really get aggressive deploying broadband at a national level, we need to implement OTMR (One Touch Make Ready). This should be mandated at the Federal level as a matter of national security. And, we would strongly advocate for a national GIS database of all broadband network infrastructure, both underground and aerial environment. The debate about security here is moot. If someone wants to sabotage a network, they don’t need to look it up in a GIS database, they just need to drive down the street and look out the window.
Federal Funding With the current level of Federal funding, there will be a frenzy of new interest. Those who disseminate those funds need to be diligent to ensure they aren’t used unwisely. We are not advocating to slow down the process, but Broadband is a specialized industry and Subject Matter Experts with experience should be consulted by the new players this field will attract. The opportunities are so abundant, there is enough for everyone. We have seen it proven repeatedly over the past five to ten years by major fiber optic network programs that better planning and a consistent strategy would yield a more productive outcome. It would be a shame to waste this once in a lifetime opportunity and investment when we could really make an impact for the tax-paying citizens of our country.
The level of broadband infrastructure deployment needed will require decades of effort. This is a ripe market for more software services (GIS, LiDAR, etc.), skilled construction resources (bore rig operators, duct and cable placers, fiber splicers, etc.), and material suppliers (ducts, vaults, cable, closures, active electronics, etc.). Supply will need to ramp up to meet the new demand. Problems = Opportunities
About Lee Comer
Lee Comer is the Broadband Engineering Services Practice Area Leader at Foresite Group, LLC. He brings over 20 years of experience as a designer, supervisor, and project manager in the telecommunications industry. A native Alabamian, Lee earned his B.S. and M.S. in Industrial Design from Auburn University. With a passionate focus on improving the way people relate to each other, information and technology, and their environment, Lee translates his knowledge of design, construction, and installation of communication networks into a comprehensive infrastructure program to create connected communities.