Regulators in the U.S. Have Been Working to Promote the Expansion of Broadband for Rural Areas

Broadband for rural areas can have high ROI than expected - has unlocked potentialEvolving Broadband Access in the U.S. Continues Under Obama Administration

Broadband internet service is about more than simply being able to download games or watch movies. For many organizations around the country, broadband internet access provides a critical upgrade to their commercial and business efforts, to educational efforts, and to the ability to support other technological enhancements such as remote telemedicine and live education, something of particular interest to the many rural communities across the U.S. And it’s precisely those communities where broadband internet infrastructure and adoption rates face the greatest challenge.

This issue, fortunately, hasn’t gone unnoticed and the continued expansion of broadband internet access has, if anything, greatly expanded under the Obama administration. On March 23, President Obama signed an executive order that created a council composed of members from across a large number of federal agencies, with a mandate to identify those areas where government regulation has impeded or negatively impacted the development of broadband access, and to identify what modifications should be undertaken to make the adoption of broadband more widespread and easier to implement.

The definition of broadband, likewise, has undergone a redefinition in the recent past, as the Federal Communications Commission recently voted to define broadband access as a minimum connection speed of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. This not only provides a standard definition of what is meant by ‘broadband internet access’, but also sets a minimum objective for achieving that level of access in given areas.
The Challenge of Supplying Broadband in Rural Areas

The issue with providing broadband access in rural areas is the lack of sufficient population to support those services. In many parts of the country, there are areas of population who want broadband access and are willing to pay for it, but the density of the population doesn’t provide a quick enough payback to the telecommunications companies that would provide the access. The companies would end up laying out a sizable outlay of cash to build out the fiber lines, points of presence and equipment to provide access to a given area, but the revenues received from those who subscribe to the service wouldn’t be sufficient to cover those outlays before additional investment would be required to upgrade the infrastructure again. In other words, the telecommunications companies would lose money overall.

Broadband Development Efforts Underway

To counter the challenges in providing access to a greater portion of the country, federal and state governments have launched initiatives to support the growth and adoption of broadband internet access in various areas and markets across the country. Some of those initiatives include:

  • On March 23, the same day that President Obama announced that he would be forming his commission to increase broadband access and adoption rates, the Department of Agriculture likewise announced that it would provide $35 million in loans to support the build-out of infrastructure to support broadband internet access in Arkansas, Iowa and New Mexico, which have many rural areas that might not otherwise gain access at broadband speeds.
  • Earlier this year, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a new program that seeks to provide up to $500 million in incentives to companies that can build out the necessary infrastructure and provide broadband internet access to areas of the state that are rural or otherwise under-served.
  • The initiatives announced above complement earlier and still-ongoing initiatives from other organizations such as the FCC, which announced last June that it was spending up to $100 million on an initiative to study the best methods of broadband access for rural areas and under-served markets, and then build out that infrastructure. The program certainly garnered interest from potential providers, as over 180 competitors provided over 600 bids for projects to provide that access.
  • In May of last year, the FCC also re-purposed a program that had originally been intended to provide regular phone access to rural areas, and instead altered the focus of the program to providing broadband internet access in those same areas. The telephone companies in those areas initially opposed this re-allocation, as they’d been counting on the funds to subsidize build-out of regular phone service, and while that resistance was previously successful, it now appears that broadband adoption will be a key aspect of the program moving forward.

In the meantime…

While all of these efforts continue to drive the build-out of infrastructure to support broadband access across the country, the issue remains that there is still a lack of high-speed broadband access in many areas of the country, and not just in rural and remote areas – many urban areas still lack broadband access, as well as many suburban areas across the country.

To meet the definition mentioned above, that of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload, alternate strategies need to be employed in many areas and by many organizations. And there are alternatives to waiting for infrastructure upgrades.

One such alternative strategy is the concept of broadband bonding. In broadband bonding, two or more slower links are bonded together to create a unified circuit that’s more robust and potentially more redundant than either of the standalone circuits. Broadband bonding can be used with circuits from the same carrier, or separate carriers if the service is available, and can also bond different circuit types (MPLS, DSL, Cable, etc).

Technologies like WAN Orchestration, bandwidth optimization and caching can relieve some of the burden placed on network connections and complement technologies like broadband bonding to create a more complete solution. This approach will help both today, with the slower individual Internet lines as well as in the future when new infrastructure is laid out.

Conclusion

Anytime a fundamentally new technology or paradigm comes along, it usually takes a relatively large effort to make that technology available to as many people as possible. This has been seen in the United States with the advent of radio, television and modern telecommunication, and still applies for basic internet access and wireless services. And the trends will likely continue as the country progresses toward new technologies in the future.

And, as with those previous technologies, proactive government assistance can help to speed the adoption of broadband access, while strategies like web acceleration, WAN orchestration, content caching, broadband bonding and other technologies can help to fill the gap while the supporting infrastructure is developed. It’s really only through approaches such as those identified above, whether collaborative or coincidental in nature, that broadband adoption will achieve the goals set out by the current and previous administrations.

Cahit Akin, CEO, Mushroom Networks, Inc. 

Mushroom Networks is the provider of SD-WAN (Software Defined WAN) and NFV solutions capable of Broadband Bonding that enables self-healing WAN networks that route around network problems such as latency, jitter and packet loss.

https://www.mushroomnetworks.com

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