Bridging the Digital Divide in Rural America | Corning and NTCA Launch Rural Broadband Supply Program to Simplify and Accelerate Rural Deployments | Corning

Corning and NTCA Launch Rural Broadband Supply Program to Simplify and Accelerate Rural Deployments

By Keith Martin
Published: February 23, 2023

How essential is reliable internet access? Quite essential if you ask the 11.9 million U.S. undergraduate students enrolled in one or more online courses in 2020. For 53.6% of Americans who fully or partly work remotely, access to reliable internet is indispensable. And for 76% of U.S. hospitals using telehealth to connect doctors and patients, access to broadband is beyond crucial as it means access to healthcare. And yet, about half of Americans currently lack access to fiber broadband – meaning millions are left out of the economic, educational, and other opportunities enabled by high-speed connectivity.

At Corning, we believe everyone should have access to reliable, high-speed broadband. In fact, we have made it our mission to help deliver the quality of life that connectivity brings. Committed to digital inclusion, we use our expertise in fiber optics to develop fiber, cable, and connectivity solutions that help operators push the easy button for their broadband deployment, and connect the unconnected.

So, when we had the opportunity to collaborate with NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association on an exclusive supply program  to simplify and accelerate operators’ rural broadband deployments, we immediately jumped at the chance. Working closely with NTCA, we designed and outlined a program that would allocate reserved supply for its members, facilitating access to industry-leading cable and connectivity solutions that are critical to help bridge the digital divide and connect more rural Americans to high-speed internet.

Our capacity investments support this effort. Just last year, we announced our plan to build a new cable plant in Arizona that will add approximately 250 U.S. jobs. We expect this capacity to be in place in 2024, in time to support network buildouts funded through the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program.

It’s certainly a time of opportunity for our industry, but it’s also a time of challenge. Operators are dealing with a shortage of specialized labor and supply chain disruptions that can cause critical deployment delays.

At Corning we have spent the last few years working with the industry ecosystem to respond decisively to these challenges.  

  • Our capacity expansion in Arizona is part of a larger series of investments in capacity, supported by strong customer commitments. A cable capacity expansion we announced in North Carolina in 2021 is currently ramping into production. In total, we’ve invested more than $500 million in fiber and cable capacity since 2020 – more than doubling our ability to serve the U.S. cable market.
  • While it’s one thing to make more optical fiber, it’s another thing to deploy it. That’s why we have launched our fiber optic training program designed to train the workforce of tomorrow to deploy and maintain U.S. growing broadband networks. We’re glad to see NTCA also support broadband workforce development through their initiative with Northwood Technical College.
  • And perhaps most importantly, we have continued to invest in innovation to create solutions catered to rural deployments. Twenty years ago, Corning pioneered the pre-engineered solutions that made it possible to deploy fiber to the home on a massive scale. Today Corning’s pre-engineered solutions have passed more than 70 million homes around the world.  What made those solutions such a breakthrough was their labor efficiency – with fewer components to manage in the field. This allowed customers to deploy much more quickly and cost-effectively – with a faster path to revenue growth. 

As Shirley Bloomfield, NTCA’s chief executive officer, eloquently stated in a recent blog: “We all know closing the digital divide is an ongoing effort rather than a one-time mission.” That’s also how we at Corning see it: we know that bridging the digital divide and connecting rural America will require an ecosystem. That’s why we’re proud to collaborate with NTCA as part of our ongoing effort to help rural operators obtain the supply they need to connect more rural Americans with essential high-speed internet services.

There is an urgency to meet the rising demand for connectivity with effective solutions and a reliable supply chain and Corning is uniquely positioned to rise to this challenge. We have adapted to the industry changes and the needs of our customers, creating innovative solutions catered to their projects, training their future workforce, and investing in a consistent supply to keep their projects on track.

Interested in learning more about the NTCA-Corning Rural Broadband Supply Program? Speak to an expert here.

For purposes of clarification, NTCA has no contractual relationship with Corning or any of the distributors and is not a party to any of the agreements among Corning, distributors, or any NTCA members placing orders through this program. NTCA is not a beneficiary to the agreements that any member enters into with Corning or a distributor, and NTCA is not involved in and does not specifically endorse or recommend any specific solution, service, product, or party.

Keith Martin with Corning Optical Communications

Keith Martin
is Vice President of U.S. Emerging Carriers. In this role, he leads Corning’s efforts to support the construction of the U.S. Broadband networks that connect our homes with the digital world. His teams at Corning supports all of the Tier 2, Tier 3, and Emerging Carrier customers who operate networks in the United States. 

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