What’s the Hold-Up? The Future of Broadband Deployment

Posted by Ashley Little on June 6, 2017

Lack of Shared Data & Poor Communication impedes Broadband Deployment

shutterstock_519396565.jpgWhile broadband is consistently being deployed across the nation, many would-be attachers are frustrated that implementation has not happened faster. Service providers are not alone, as the frustration extends to potential customers of broadband, cities and municipalities, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report states: “While the nation continues to make progress in broadband deployment, many Americans still lack access to advanced, high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video offerings, especially in rural areas and on Tribal lands.” The same report offered detailed statistics on how many Americans cannot access the standard speed of broadband. The current benchmark speed is 25 Megabits per second for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. Thirty-nine percent of rural Americans (23 million people) do not have even one Internet option at this speed in their area.

So, what is going wrong? Why isn’t broadband being deployed in a “reasonable and timely fashion,” like the FCC would like? This complex matter has several working parts to reach completion and involves many factors, but a lack of shared asset data is a notable starting point.

Lack of Shared Asset Data
When a company wants to deploy broadband, they must submit requests to the relevant pole or vault owners. Asset owners may be slow to approve such requests for a variety of reasons. When the requests are approved, then space must be allotted for the new wiring. Because of state regulations and national safety codes, asset owners coordinate transfer work individually with each attacher. The current FCC requirements include multiple steps that often result in an extensive time period. However, since each joint use contract is different, timelines for individual projects vary. In fact, some states also have their own “rates, terms, and conditions for pole access.”

In addition to the complex nature of the process, the communication required to implement each of these steps is often held up by miscommunication, lost notifications, insufficient staffing resources, busy contractors, and other delays. Hard copy notifications get lost in the mail, between papers on someone’s desk, or among incorrectly entered data in a spreadsheet. Further, asset owners and attachers often lack the tools to complete the work efficiently. This was likely one factor in Google Fiber’s shifting broadband deployment strategy, as the company faced ongoing delays. 

Lack of Good Data Management
Another slow-down in deploying broadband and other future services is the challenge of data management. To determine asset locations, conditions, the number of attachers, schedules for maintenance, and other information, it is necessary to make multiple inquiries to different sources. Establishing a shared source for storing all asset data would significantly improve efficiency for joint use work and broadband deployment.

The FCC is focused on accelerating broadband deployment. They released a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Notice of Inquiry and Request for Comment on March 30, 2017 that proposes several changes to current procedures. It includes pole attachment reforms, such as speeding up access to poles for new entrants by accelerating the permit application process. If approved, pole owners and attachers will require new tools and procedures in order to meet these accelerated timelines.

A centralized, shared asset database can help asset owners and attachers alike share relevant data in a secure, accessible format, making it easier and faster to deploy up-to-date broadband in new areas.

Learn more about how Alden One®, a centralized, shared asset database, is working today for power utilities and telecommunications companies. Schedule a consultation with an asset management expert by clicking below.

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