Government Broadband Funding | High-Speed Fiber | Corning

5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Broadband Funding

By Bob Whitman
Published: April 13, 2023

Our industry stands at a moment of tremendous opportunity as a historic level of government funding is becoming available to bridge the digital divide in America. Yet, how we go about bridging that gap is of critical importance.

The inclusion of broadband in the federal infrastructure investment bill reinforced the understanding that broadband is coming to be seen as essential to everyday life, much like electricity, sewer, and water. And yet, today, only about half of Americans have access to fiber-based broadband– meaning millions are missing out on the social, economic, and educational opportunities enabled by the highest quality high-speed internet access.

By making a number of grant programs available to states, local leaders, and other eligible recipients, the federal government is working to ensure digital inclusion for all Americans. But to make their deployments successful, the funding recipients need support from trusted partners and access to future-ready and easy-to-deploy network solutions.

Here are my 5 key considerations for states, local leaders, and other eligible recipients to assess in order to make the most of broadband funding:

1. Choose the right technology

First and foremost, to fully make the most out of broadband funding and bridge the digital divide in their communities, local leaders will need to choose the best technology to deliver last-mile broadband service. It's crucial for decision-makers to "get it right on the first try" when it comes to broadband technologies.

Luckily for them, this debate is settled, and fiber is the clear choice. As the fastest and most reliable broadband technology, optical fiber can transmit the highest speeds and longest distances at the lowest operating cost. Meanwhile, alternatives to fiber technology are challenged by limited bandwidth, shorter distances, noise, latency, and other factors that result in lower quality and ultimately higher long-term costs.

Aside from fiber's nearly unlimited bandwidth and scalability, perhaps one of its most convincing arguments is the fact that it remains the most future-ready technology available. Not only is fiber the technology with the longest average life, reducing future operational expenses but fiber networks can also be upgraded to meet the bandwidth needs of tomorrow by simply upgrading electronics at the ends, avoiding rip-and-replace events and associated costs. This makes fiber the superior broadband technology.

2. Leverage industry experts

After 25 years in this business, I can tell you that every network deployment, no matter how straightforward, brings its share of unanticipated challenges. That’s why I recommend that grant recipients partner with technology and industry experts.

As we’ve said many times, it will take collaboration and partnership to connect all Americans to high-speed internet. From the initial planning process to the design phase, network construction, turn-up and operation, it's important to find established allies and trusted advisors who will not only guide your efforts in building and operating a network but also have the right resources and solutions widely available. At Corning, we've developed an ecosystem to support rural deployments and create future-ready, cost-effective fiber solutions that simplify installation.

3. Optimize network architecture based on your priorities

Different business goals, priorities, and geographies call for consideration of different network architectures. When planning a network design, we look at a wide range of variables such as costs, scalability, deployment speed, availability of skilled labor force, performance, and others. Working closely with the service provider we assess their requirements and capabilities, determine where additional industry expertise is needed and assist in creating a design and deployment plan.

Bringing connectivity to rural areas poses a number of challenges associated with low density and difficult terrain, so it's crucial to be innovative in all aspects of bringing broadband to underserved communities. At Corning, we've been focusing intensely on how to solve those challenges, digging in with rural providers to find ways we can help optimize their network architecture for their business goals. We've developed flexible network building blocks allowing for progressive deployments matching a “pay as you grow” model.

4. Consider alternative business models

As discussed, building rural and underserved areas requires a different way of thinking. One key variable that will affect the architecture of your network is the business model under which you're operating.  In some cases, sharing the cost to build and/or operate the network makes a lot of sense.  Whether you're employing an infrastructure model (building the network for one or more anchor service providers) or an open access model (allowing all providers to have wholesale access to the network) you'll want to consider different network variables when it comes to planning and optimizing the architecture of your network for costs, scale, speed, access points and other factors.

Such considerations regarding the business model will be taken into account when designing a network with Corning. As you build for one or more service providers it's crucial to leverage industry-leading solutions that comply with various service provider standards for an agile and modular architecture.

5. Leverage solutions that mitigate labor challenges

As capital becomes available to deliver connectivity to underserved communities, regional network operators must still contend with labor constraints. That’s why it's critical for network operators to leverage labor-saving solutions, such as pre-terminated connections that can be installed without specialized labor. At Corning, we've developed an ecosystem to support rural deployments and create future-ready, cost-effective fiber solutions that simplify installation.

Corning's award-winning FlexNap™ system ushered in the era of fiber to the home nearly 20 years ago by eliminating splicing in the field – and we’ve never stopped improving it. Reducing the deployment time and need for skilled labor, this fully connectorized solution allows operators to complete projects up to five times faster with up to 30% lower total cost than other FTTH solutions. With fewer components to manage in the field, our solution also reduces supply chain complexity to meet the unique challenges of modern network deployments.

To learn more about our industry-leading fiber to the home solutions click here.

Michael Crook with Corning Optical Communications

Bob Whitman
is Vice President of Global Market Development for Carrier Networks. In this role he is responsible for Carrier Networks Market and Business Development to include strategy and execution of Corning’s Fiber to the Home, Inside Plant, 5G and Emerging Applications initiatives. With over 25 years’ experience in optical fiber network architecture, product development and carrier engagement, Bob has developed commercial and technical expertise in all aspects of optical communications. 

Prior to joining Corning in 1997 Bob served as a Nuclear Power Engineering Officer in the US Navy.

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