The NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) insists that the 17 state laws that hamper nationwide community broadband deployments won’t delay a massive looming infusion of infrastructure broadband subsidies. But one industry group isn’t so sure. Read the full story on Community Networks’ website.
Four east coast states - Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware - have the best broadband in the U.S. according to a report from research firm BroadbandNow.
On the other side of the broadband coin, West Virginia, Alaska, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Vermont were ranked worst according to their metrics, which takes into account speed, latency, and affordability. Among states where CBAN members call home, the results look like this:
Fiber's Upgrade Path
Most fiber optic networks use a technology called "Passive Optical Networks" or PON to bring broadband from a central office/data center to the end user. PON networks have several advantages, including the fact that they don't require any powered equipment between the data center and the user's home or business. That's where the word "passive" comes from.
Up until just a couple of years ago, most networks utilized a platform called GPON. GPON networks are capable of handling up to 2.5 Gbps in aggregate data downstream (from data center to user) and either 1.2 Gbps or 2.5 Gbps upstream (from the user back to the data center), depending on the standard used for the equipment. The GPON standard has been around for 20 years and while it can still support amazing broadband experiences, the need for more bandwidth has tasked engineers with doing better.
Enter XGS-PON, the new standard when deploying a fiber network. Using the exact same fiber as a GPON network and using upgraded electronics on either end, XGS-PON allows providers to offer speeds of up to 10 Gbps in each direction. It's the solution that several CBAN provider members have in their networks today.
One of the amazing things about fiber optics is that, once the glass is in the ground, it can support electronics upgrades to improve bandwidth. At least one manufacturer (Nokia) is deploying 25 GPON (25 Gbps bidirectional). Others are working on 40 GPON. And as this article in Telecompetitor points out, work is underway to develop a 100 GPON standard.
The main takeaway is that a lot of really smart people are working behind the scenes to make sure that fiber optic networks will be able to keep up with growing consumer demand for bandwidth for many years to come.
On May 5, 2023 the Iowa Office of Chief Information Officer (OCIO) announced the results of a spring process whereby communities in Iowa self-identified areas in need of broadband network investment.
The OCIO received a total of 99 applications during the Invitation to Qualify (ITQ) application window in March.6 Ninety six of the applications were ranked in order of priority, with three applications not ranked because all of their addresses were included in another ranked application. The intention of the ITQ was to allow, for the first time, communities to have a say in where the State of Iowa should invest broadband grant funding to cover unserved and underserved areas. In prior rounds of state broadband grants, the State relied on providers to identify the eligible areas they were interested in serving.
Each Broadband Intervention Zone is expected to receive some sort of priority for funding in the next round of the Iowa Broadband Grant program, NOFA 8. It isn't clear if provider applications in those zones will receive additional points on the scoring matrix, a higher percentage of grant support, or some combination. While the OCIO has not released details on the formula or the timing, it is expected that NOFA 8, using funds from the state's Capital Projects Fund from the US Department of Treasury. Iowa's allocation under that program was $152.2 million.
Three CBAN members had successful ITQ applications. Madison County Development Group submitted three ITQ responses, which were ranked #2, #4, and #24. Johnson County's applications were ranked #5, #10, and #82. The City of Waterloo's application was ranked #21.
With the ACP’s funding set to run out later this year, the re-funding drive is underway. While nationwide enrollment levels are often reported to be below 30 percent, the numbers vary widely by region. Luckily, the Benton Institute has undertaken the heavy lifting to create an easy to use tool to track ACP enrollment down to the zip code level.
According to its authors, “the Benton Institute’s ACP Performance Tool is a resource for any community that wants to answer the question: “How are ACP sign-ups going?” To answer, search a 5-digit zip code on the tool’s website. It returns results that show two important numbers for the zip code area: 1) how many households have signed up for ACP (from government data) and 2) the expected number of households enrolled.”
Read more about the tool and the Benton Institute’s methodology here.
CBAN Welcomes Digitunity
Helping all Americans access the digital economy requires efforts on multiple fronts. Access, affordability, and digital skills training all play vital roles in digital equity. A sometimes overlooked aspect of digital equity is access to devices. So CBAN is excited to have a new member that has been putting technology in the hands of people for nearly 30 years - Digitunity.
Digitunity helps bridge the digital divide by advancing device ownership for all Americans. They partner, lead, coordinate, educate, ignite and unite people, ideas, and solutions. We are excited to add them to the CBAN community!
Mi-Fiber Joins CBAN
CBAN would like to welcome Mi-Fiber as CBAN's newest Provider member!
Mi-Fiber provides fiber broadband services in central Iowa, focusing on the suburbs of Des Moines. Mi-Fiber is a subsidiary of CBAN member GRM Networks, and established a foothold in the region by building fiber-to-the-home in Waukee, Iowa. Since then they have expanded services into parts of West Des Moines, Grimes, Polk City, Ankeny, Bondurant, and Pleasant Hill. Their office is in Urbandale, Iowa.
From Curtis Dean of CBAN: On a personal note, I am SO EXCITED to now be connected to the Mi-Fiber network at my home near the border of West Des Moines and Waukee! It is the first time in 13 years I have been able to receive service from a community-focused company that treats its customers like neighbors, not numbers!
18 years after its passage at the behest of large telecommunications companies, the Colorado law that required communities to hold an election before building broadband networks has been stricken from the books.
This week Governor Jared Polis signed a bill eliminating the previous requirement that local governments hold an election to opt-out of SB-152, passed in 2005, before offering broadband services. The previous law was not an outright barrier to municipal broadband, but did place an extra burden on communities that large providers used to try to block successful referendums. One of the most egregious examples of pushback came in Fort Collins in 2017, when an industry-funded group called "Priorities First Fort Collins" spent $451,000 against the referendum - only to see voters approve the measure 57% to 43%. Supporters of the referendum spent just $10,000 to promote a YES vote.
Overall, 122 Colorado communities have voted to authorize municipal broadband over the years, with only one town voting it down. For more details on the Colorado law, check out this excellent article at ArsTechnica.
Block Island, a small island off the coast of Rhode Island, is home to that state's first municipal fiber-to-the-home network. And after two years of preparation and construction, the first customers are about to be hooked up to service.
The Block Island network is a public-private partnership between the Town of New Shoreham, owner of the network known as Broadband BI, and Crocker Communications, which will provide direct customer support and billing. Another company, Sertex Broadband Solutions, was responsible for network construction and ongoing network operations. The network has 53 miles of fiber on its distribution system; 62 miles of underground service drops; and 1,800 property connections.
Last month, Broadband BI opened up the first service area for installation and connection. According to their website, they have now opened up subscriptions in two additional service areas.
Congratulations to the residents of Block Island for having access to service from your community-owned network!
ACP Enrollment Growing Slowly
Nationwide, enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has reached 33.7% of eligible households. But enrollment across the nation varies greatly depending on location.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), a CBAN advocate member, has created an excellent tool for tracking ACP adoption at the website acpdashboard.com. Among the states, adoption ranges from a high of 46.3% in Louisiana to a low of just 11.6% in North Dakota.
CBAN currently has members in 20 states, and ACP adoption still has a long way to go in those states.
ILSR is estimating that about $8.7 Billion remains in the ACP and that at current adoption rates the fund will be depleted sometime next spring or summer.
There is expected to be significant pressure on Congress to find additional funding for the ACP, but so far no legislation has been advanced.
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.