Fiber Broadband Association Announces New Industry Research Advisory Program to Quantify and Qualify Impact of Fiber Broadband on People, Places and Communities

Fiber 2021 Connect is happening this week and with it come exciting announcements from the Fiber Broadband Association, including their New Industry Research Advisory Program…

Today at Fiber Connect 2021, the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) announced it has created the Research Advisory Program, a new independent research organization led by former Gartner Principal Analyst Deborah Kish to quantify and qualify the economic, societal and community impact of fiber broadband in the U.S. and Latin America. The FBA launched three new white papers including The Market Has Spoken, The Future of Work and Fiber is the Fundamental Technology for 21st Century Communications with plans for additional original survey-based research and qualitative summaries, partner-based research, technical analysis and member-sponsored white papers.

“Fiber is the foundation of the 21st century digital economy. This decade brings unprecedented opportunity for investment, deployment and technology innovation as fiber networks bring more for homes, business, people and a wide array of advanced devices into the Gigabit Economy,” said Gary Bolton, President and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “Fiber broadband has proven to have an immediate and long-lasting impact on communities across North America and the Fiber Broadband Association, with its broad membership mix of operators, vendors, integrators and communities, is well positioned to deliver the resources and information the industry needs to make informed decisions.”

The research will be centered with the FBA’s Technical Community, leveraging some of the FBA’s member companies’ brightest technical minds to examine the critical issues the fiber industry faces today as it looks to provide robust broadband services to all Americans. It will also look to partner with other industry groups, as the FBA did with The Future of Work white paper created in partnership with the Fiber Council Global Alliance and the Starlink: RDOF Assessment developed in partnership with NCTA, for survey-based original quantitative-based research.

Since inaugurating the program, the FBA Research Advisory Program has delivered its first slate of original research, technical white papers, market summaries and educational webinars. These include:

“I’ve been fortunate to watch several markets develop and grow in my role as a senior research analyst and the current opportunity is unprecedented in terms of its potential impact on people’s lives today and for generations to come,” said Deborah Kish, Vice President of research and director of the Fiber Advisory Research Program. “The research we have underway will not only deliver the facts, figures and insight the industry needs to move forward in a way that creates true digital equity for everyone but provide actionable advice for our all our members.”

For more information about the FBA’s Fiber Advisory Program, or to inquire about becoming involved in the program as part of a technical peer review program, sponsoring or partnering new research, please contact Deborah Kish.

Fiber Broadband Association to Launch National Fiber Optic Technician Training and Certification Program

Fiber 2021 Connect is happening this week and with it come exciting announcements from the Fiber Broadband Association, starting with their Fiber Optic Technician Training and Certification Program…

Today at Fiber Connect 2021, the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) announced its The program features unique curriculum designed by leading experts in the fiber community to quickly scale technical education, fill the existing fiber skills gap and accelerate fiber deployments across North America.

The demand on service providers and communities to build better broadband networks continues to increase. The pandemic highlighted the need for speeds to support bandwidth-straining remote work and education, telehealth and streaming entertainment. The best option to deliver this capacity is fiber because it delivers the best performance in speed and reliability than any other type of broadband technology. However, there is a shortage of qualified fiber workers which creates a tall hurdle in deploying fiber in many regions of North America.

“The Fiber Broadband Association is responding to the needs of service providers in anticipation of the U.S. government’s infrastructure plan to dedicate $65 billion on broadband build-outs across the nation,” said Mark Boxer, FBA Board Member, lead for FBA training and certification program and Technical Manager, Solutions and Applications Engineering at OFS. “We are addressing the fiber workforce shortage with the OpTIC program, providing relevant training to equip workers with the knowledge and skills needed to build fiber networks.”

The program will be offered nationwide through vocational schools, community colleges and veteran training programs. Wilson Community College in Wilson, N.C., will be the first to pilot the OpTIC, curriculum, consisting of 144 hours of combined class and lab courses followed by a 2,000-hour apprenticeship that is fully approved and recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Fiber Broadband Association and its OpTICS apprenticeship program is recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor as a National Program sponsor, eligible for state and federal grants. The program will include technical content for today’s fiber technician as well as plenty of hands-on practice, with the goal of compressing the time needed to equip them to be safe and productive in the field. Participants that complete the program will be certified as an FBA Accredited OpTIC Technician.

“Wilson was North Carolina’s first gigabit city and is now home to many advanced workforce training programs that are focused on fiber optics,” said Gene Scott, General Manager of Outside Plant at Greenlight Community Broadband, and chair of the FBA education subcommittee. “We are thrilled to be associated with the first school to offer the FBA’s OpTIC program. The citizens of Wilson understand that fiber technology has the ability to change lives by bringing economic and quality of life opportunities to the communities that can access it.”

“The need for a highly-trained fiber workforce has never been greater, so we’re thrilled to launch a certification program that will be extremely valuable to the industry,” said Deborah Kish, Vice President of Research and Marketing at the Fiber Broadband Association. “We expect the OpTIC program to be recognized across North America as the gold standard among training programs directed at developing highly competent fiber splicers, premise installers and technicians that are required for today’s fiber deployments. Moreover, this certification program will help create jobs across North America and ensure all broadband deployments are fiber first.”

To learn more about the FBA’s OpTIC program, please visit https://www.fiberbroadband.org/certification.

These are good jobs and I’m glad to hear about the program. Also, policymakers always seem impressed by initiatives that create an immediate need for jobs; so I think that will help too.

Midco extends gig access to parts of Le Sueur, Steele, Blue Earth, Freeborn, Waseca and Dodge Counties

Midco announces

Homes and businesses in 15 southern Minnesota communities will now have access to Midco Gig. Midco Gig is 35 times faster than the average high-speed internet and available at an affordable price.

“The current environment has made high-speed internet more important than ever before,” said Midco President & CEO Pat McAdaragh. “From distance learning to telemedicine, Midco Gig Internet uses our state-of-the-art network to provide super-fast, reliable speeds through a modem.”

For residential customers, Midco Gig Internet will provide a large amount of bandwidth to a home network – allowing multiple users to surf, stream, download and game at the same time. For business customers, Midco Business Gig Internet will deliver the internet capacity needed to support employee productivity and serve customers.

The 15 southern Minnesota communities include: Alden, Blue Earth County, Claremont, Clarks Grove, Ellendale, Elysian, Freeborn County, Geneva, Glenville, Le Center, Medford, Medford Township, New Richard, Waterville and Waterville Township.

Midco Gig Internet is now available in 95% of the communities Midco serves. It’s part of Midco’s ongoing promise to deliver services that enhance people’s lives wherever they live and work.

Mankato getting more fiber with Consolidated and faster downloads with Spectrum

KEYC News Mankato reports news from Spectrum…

Good news for internet users in our area, two of the area’s main broadband providers are both upping internet speeds for its customers.

Spectrum increases its download speeds from 100 to 200 megabits in Mankato and surrounding areas.

And news from Consolidated…

In an effort to close the local digital divide, Consolidated Communications also brings faster speeds to its customers through its fiber rollout.

Upgrading about 5000 homes in North Mankato and Mankato to fiber optic cable from its traditional copper wire cable.

“This will enable high-speed gigabit symmetrical speeds to these customers homes and small businesses. We are seeing a drastic increase in the demand for bandwidth across the country, especially here in Southern Minnesota where we call home, Mankato is such a special we are excited to bring these faster speeds to our customers,” said Consolidated Communications Senior Director of Operations, Ryan Walker.

The rollout is part of Consolidated’s plan to upgrade more than 70% of its service to fiber optics by 2025.

Doug Dawson predictions in upload broadband discussion

Doug Dawson recently wrote about the “Looming Battle Over Upload Speeds” as a precursor to doling out funds to deploy broadband. Even I can find discussion about broadband speed tedious … until you put a dollar sign in front of it, then it’s not just academic and Doug does a nice job queueing up the discussion…

By next week we’re going to see the opening shots in the battle for setting an official definition of upload broadband speeds. You might expect that this is a topic that would be debated at the FCC, but this battle is coming as a result of questions asked by the U.S. Department of Treasury as part of defining how to use the grant monies from the American Rescue Plan Act. Treasury has oddly been put in charge of deciding how to use $10 billion of direct broadband grants and some portion of the gigantic $350 billion in funding that is going directly to counties, cities, and towns across the country.

Treasury asked for comments through a series of questions about the broadband speeds of technologies that should be supported with the grant funding. The questions ask for a discussion of the pros and cons of requiring that grant dollars are used to built technologies that can achieve speeds of 100/20 Mbps versus 100/100 Mbps.

Treasury is not likely to see many comments on the requirement that grant deployments must meet 100 Mbps download speeds. All of the major broadband technologies will claim the ability to meet that speed – be that fiber, cable company hybrid-fiber networks, fixed wireless provided by WISPs, or low-orbit satellites. The only industry segment that might take exception to a 100 Mbps download requirement is fixed cellular broadband which can only meet that kind of speed for a short distance from a tower.

And putting jerseys on the respective teams…

A recent blog on the WISPA website argues that argues for upload speeds of 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps. The blog argues that it costs more to build 100/100 Mbps networks (as a way to remind that fixed wireless costs a lot less than fiber).

We know the cable industry is going to come out hard against any definition up upload speed greater than 20 Mbps – since that’s what most cable networks are delivering. In a show of solidarity with the rest of the cable industry, Altice recently announced that it will lower current upload speeds of 35 – 50 Mbps down to 5 – 10 Mbps. This is clearly being done to allow the cable industry to have a united front to argue against faster upload speeds. This act is one of most bizarre reactions that I’ve ever seen from an ISP to potential regulation and a direct poke in the eye to Altice customers.

Back in March, we saw Joan Marsh, the AT&T Executive VP argue that 21st-century broadband doesn’t need upload speeds greater than 10 Mbps. This was an argument that clearly was clearly meant to support using grant funds for rural fixed cellular technology. It’s an odd position to take for the second largest fiber provider in the country.

How much broadband is enough? Depends on who is asking.

Ars Technica reports

AT&T says fiber Internet is a “superior” technology that is built for today and the future because of its ability to deliver symmetrical upload and download speeds of 1Gbps and higher. AT&T also says that “there is no compelling evidence” to support the deployment of fiber across the US and that rural people should be satisfied with nonfiber Internet access that provides only 10Mbps upload speeds.

The difference between those two wildly different statements was the audience. AT&T’s message about fiber’s future-proof nature and its superiority over cable and DSL was delivered to investors while AT&T discussed the incremental fiber expansion in which it is hooking up more homes in metro areas where it already offers fiber. By contrast, AT&T’s message that Americans don’t need fiber access was delivered to the US government while the ISP lobbied against government-subsidized construction of fiber lines that are clearly superior to the DSL and fixed wireless home-Internet products that AT&T sells in areas where it decided that fiber is not cost-effective.

As we reported on March 29, AT&T is fighting proposals to subsidize nationwide fiber, writing that “there would be significant additional cost to deploy fiber to virtually every home and small business in the country, when at present there is no compelling evidence that those expenditures are justified over the service quality of a 50/10 or 100/20Mbps product.” That refers to 50Mbps download speeds with 10Mbps upload speeds or 100Mbps downloads with 20Mbps uploads.

AT&T Executive VP of Federal Regulatory Relations Joan Marsh also said at the time that building new networks in areas that already have basic speeds “would needlessly devalue private investment and waste broadband-directed dollars.” But while AT&T tells the government that such spending is a “waste,” it has a vested interest because blocking fiber construction would protect it from competition in the many areas where it hasn’t upgraded copper to fiber and in places where it has deployed fixed wireless instead of wired Internet.

NTIA Launches Updated Federal Broadband Funding Guide

From BroadbandUSA…

Access the updated BroadbandUSA Federal Funding Guide here!

…NTIA released an updated database with information on more than 80 federal programs across 14 federal agencies whose funding can be used for broadband-related purposes. This comprehensive “one-stop shop” for broadband resources, created with the help of participating federal agencies, supports the Biden Administration’s push for universal high-speed internet access and focus on closing the digital divide. This site also fulfills an obligation in the ACCESS BROADBAND Act to provide a central website for potential applicants seeking federal broadband funding.

Funding opportunities include direct grants, loans, indirect support, and discounts for industry, state and local governments, schools, libraries, small businesses, and other community institutions that are interested in expanding and improving broadband access. Visitors to the website can search for programs by agency, program purpose, and eligible recipients. As agencies release new funding opportunities, NTIA will update the site. The information is also available as a downloadable spreadsheet to allow users to sort the material by selected criteria.

Notably, the current database features many new programs, including the Department of Commerce’s Connecting Minority Communities program, Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and Broadband Infrastructure Program. Other new programs include the Department of Treasury’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, of which broadband is an eligible activity; the Department of Agriculture’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants; and the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit programEmergency Connectivity FundCOVID-19 Telehealth program, and Connected Care Pilot program.

The launch of this latest round of federal broadband funding updates will help ensure that the public has easy access to the most up-to-date information possible to best facilitate broadband buildout and economic development. Feedback on the site is welcomed; please contact BroadbandUSA@ntia.doc.gov to provide input.

HBC Brings 5 Gbps FTTP Residential Service to Hastings

An update from HBC

Construction has begun on a new high-speed fiber broadband network in Hastings, MN that will provide residents and businesses with access to a next generation, all fiber-optic network.

Winona, MN based Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) is building the high-speed fiber network that upon completion, will be capable of delivering speeds of up to 10 Gigabits. The company expects to be delivering its high-speed Internet and Phone services to approximately 1,500 homes on the city’s southwestern edge by the end of this year.

Hastings is the latest community that will receive access to HBC’s fiber network. The company recently completed Fiber-To-The-Premises (FTTP) projects in the cities of Chatfield and Cannon Falls, in addition to several smaller rural communities.

HBC’s relationship with Dakota County and Dakota Electric made expansion into the Hastings community a logical move.

“As a company, we have been working with those two entities for the past several years, running fiber to substations and for other applications,” said HBC president Dan Pecarina. “With the necessary infrastructure already in place, our decision to grow here was much easier to make.”

Jim Kronebusch, HBC VP of Technology said HBC will utilizing XGS-PON technology as part of this project. This new technology will allow delivery of the fastest broadband speeds in the area, up to 10 Gigabits.

“The best part about deploying fiber optic networks is light has far less limitations than any other medium, such as copper cable,” said Kronebusch. “We can deploy 10 Gigabit speeds for upload and download now, however the future is capable of hundreds of Gigabits in both directions with simple updates to the electronics.”

Leading-edge technology will also be deployed in customer homes allowing them to take full advantage of ultra-fast Internet speeds and management of their home WiFi network.

“The wireless routers that we deploy in customer’s homes are WiFi 6 capable, extremely powerful, highly reliable, and exceptionally versatile,” according to Kronebusch. “If needed, our Mesh WiFi extenders will fully cover any size and style of home. Our HBC GigaHome app puts customers in control of their home network, however if assistance is needed, HBC’s Wizards Technical Support group can remotely assist with any questions without the need to enter your home. We offer support in ways the Big Box store devices cannot.”

Many may wonder why expand into a city with an existing service provider when rural broadband access is needed?

Pecarina explains, “There are times that we need to build networks in higher density communities in order to help fund the extremely high cost of rural broadband expansion. HBC currently delivers services to customers in 30 rural communities in southeastern and central Minnesota, with average populations of about 1,500 people. HBC has completed several rural expansion projects over the last several years. Building the network in Hastings with bigger city density, will help us reinvest more funding into rural connectivity. This enables us to bring broadband services to more households allowing for remote learning and working,” he said. “We also have an extensive wireless broadband network that is providing a connection for families across southeastern and into central Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.”

With an emphasis on local service, HBC is currently remodeling an office location in the Hastings Marketplace with a planned opening date of July 1st. In addition to two customer care representatives, the office will also staff an in-house HBC Wizards Technical Support technician as well as local service technicians.

“When our customers call us with an issue or question, they will be not be talking with someone in a call center halfway across the world, they will be speaking with someone who is working in their community or in one of our seven other Southeast Minnesota offices,” Pecarina said.

HBC has completed several broadband projects over the past year in Dakota County including F-T-T-P networks to an area along Highway 46, and the homes and businesses in Nininger Township and Miesville.

HBC Expands Service Area in Miesville

Good news for Miesville from HBC

– Like many rural communities around the country, the town of Miesville has had limited access to broadband service. But this will soon change with a project currently underway by Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) to expand its fiber-optic broadband network.
Once the project is completed this summer, an additional 65 homes and businesses in this rural community of 119 people will have access to symmetrical Internet speeds of up to 1 Gigabit. HBC will also offer high-definition Video service and crystal-clear Phone service.
Based in Winona, MN, HBC has been building high-speed fiber-optic networks and providing Internet, Video, and Phone services to residences and businesses since 1997. HBC currently serves customers in 30 communities across southeastern Minnesota. HBC also built and manages the RS Fiber Cooperative Network in Renville and Sibley counties in central Minnesota.
“Today, having access to a reliable high-speed broadband connection is as essential as having electricity in your home,” HBC’s president Dan Pecarina said. “Over the last year, the COVID pandemic exposed the dire need for communities to have solid broadband infrastructure to allow for at-home learning and working, telemedicine and other online applications. We are delighted that HBC is able to fill that need for the Miesville community.”
HBC Director of Technical Operations, Michael Barker indicated that construction is beginning to wrap up and that it won’t be long until services will be available. “We are on track to complete construction in the next 2-3 weeks,” according to Barker. “Once construction is finished, crews will begin connecting fiber to network distribution cabinets. If everything goes well, service could be available as soon as July.”
HBC’s Miesville customers will be served out of local offices in Cannon Falls and Hastings

Harmony Telephone to apply for broadband grant with City of Harmony

The Fillmore County Journal reports

A public hearing to discuss the application of a grant from the Small Cities Coronavirus Community Development Block Grant Program was held at the beginning of the May 11 Harmony City Council meeting. Harmony Telephone would like to apply for it in conjunction with the City of Harmony so that the every home in town would have access to broadband internet. The grant would pay for the buried fiber and Harmony Telephone would cover the cost of the electronics necessary for the project. No questions or comments were received from the public and the hearing was closed. The council approved a participation plan and Resolution 21-08 regarding the application for the grant.

Yellow Medicine County is getting more FTTH this Fall from Arvig

Always happy to share an update on more Minnesotans getting broadband. Here’s the latest map showing where Arvig will install fiber to customers – specifically the area that is red and inside the yellow boundary lines.  The two towns will not be built with fiber, as they can receive 50-60Mb and can be bonded to deliver around 100Mb.

This will serve 170 locations in the Wood Lake exchange and 162 in Echo exchange.  They are shooting for a late fall / early winter turnup time.

Long Prairie (MN) partners with CTC for FTTH

The Institute for Local Self Reliance reports on Long Prairie…

In embarking on its journey to improve local Internet access six years ago, Long Prairie (pop. 3,300) ended up partnering with one of the most aggressive fiber network builders in the state – Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) – on a solution that meets local needs. The two finished a ubiquitous Fiber-to-the-Home build in 2018, with CTC now owning and operating the network.

They ran into issues, including uncooperative incumbents…

In 2015, Long Prairie tried to qualify for the Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program to solve connectivity issues. Part of the grant included doing speed tests to show the incumbents were not providing 25/3 service locally, but less than half that speed. Unfortunately for the community, those tests and the application were challenged by the incumbents and thrown out – another funding wave went by with no luck.

This remains a huge barrier for a lot of communities working to bring the connectivity in their communities up to or beyond the federal definition of 25/3. Incumbents report that they are providing 25/3 when they aren’t, but won’t make updates to improve their network. This takes communities out of the running for state and federal dollars to build networks that work for them.

They found a solution that included a city issued bond and cooperative provider…

The city issued a bond to finance the project and CTC and Long Prairie entered into a series of agreements beginning in 2016, the first of which was that CTC would assume responsibility for the construction of a citywide Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) network and make payments on the $3.7 million loan over the course of 10 years.

The second agreement was that CTC would lease the network from the city over those 10 years to provide services to businesses and residents. The final agreement was the right of first refusal to purchase the network. At the end of 10 years, CTC would automatically take ownership, or at any time during the lease agreement once the loan was paid off.

CTC was able to build the 111-mile network from 2017-2018, passing 1,303 locations.

EVENT May 11: Fiber Broadband Association: Fiber to the farmhouse – Strategies and methods for deploying rural fiber networks

Looks like an interesting event…

The Fiber Broadband Association invites you to join us for a webinar on Tuesday, May 11, at 3 PM EDT, with Mark Boxer, Technical Manager, Solutions and Applications Engineering, at OFS. The pandemic has laid bare what rural residents have known for a long time. Rural broadband in many places is lacking. However, help is on the way. Federal and state funding programs are providing much needed assistance for rural fiber builds, and there’s never been a better time for a rural fiber build than now. This webinar will discuss design and deployment for rural networks, reviewing strategies to take fiber to the farmhouse. We’ll review the tradeoffs for various parts of the network build, and discuss concepts that may challenge some pre-conceived notions of how to deploy networks. Panelist Bio: Mark Boxer is Technical Manager, Solutions and Applications Engineering, at OFS. In this role, he assists customers deploying fiber in a wide variety of network design scenarios around the world and analyzes trends in telecommunications markets that drive new product innovation. Mark has a BME degree from Georgia Tech, and has spent his 30+ year career in the fiber industry. His experience includes varied roles in manufacturing and applications engineering for fiber-based products and markets. Other activities include inventor of six US Patents, member and past Secretary of the IEEE Power Engineering Society Fiber Optic Working Group, contributing member to the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) (formerly FTTH Council) Technology Committee and Board of Directors member of the FBA and North Carolina Broadband Matters.

Register now!

CTC brings FTTH to Ely MN

Hometown Focus reports

A state-of-the-art fiber-optic network in Ely’s downtown area is being installed by CTC and will bring affordable, reliable high-speed broadband service to 206 business and residential locations. The network is scheduled for completion by April 30. Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation (IRRR) supported the project with a Community Infrastructure grant.

When completed, CTC customers in Ely will have access to: • Internet speed of up to 1 GB (1,000 Mbps), eliminating bandwidth limitations. • Customized packages to select from that include fiber internet, managed Wi-Fi and routing, and business voice.

“High-speed reliable internet is critical to Ely’s economy and quality of life,” said Harold Langowski, Ely city clerk/treasurer. “The new fiber-optic network will eliminate connectivity barriers for the city’s small businesses, current and future remote workers and residents, and our real estate market.”

EVENT April 15: Roundtable on Current, Ongoing Broadband Legislation

An invitation from the Fiber Broadband Association…

The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) today announced a roundtable discussion planned for this Thursday, April 15 covering the ongoing legislative action aimed at expanding broadband across the United States. FBA President and CEO Gary Bolton will be joined by fiber broadband policy and industry experts to discuss recent activities within the current Administration including President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, the Accessible, Affordable Internet For All Act and more.

The webinar, scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 15, is free and available to the public after registering at this link.

Panelists include:

Gary Bolton, President and CEO, Fiber Broadband Association

Kim Bayliss, Principal, Perry Bayliss

Steve Perry, Principal, Perry Bayliss

Tom Cohan, Corporate Counsel, Partner, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

Joanne Hovis, President, CTC Technology & Energy

Ben Moncrief, Managing Director, C Spire

Stan Fendley, Director, Legislative & Regulatory Policy, Corning