C|NET: Why Rural Areas Can’t Catch A Break On Speedy Broadband

Everyone agrees on the mission to connect more people. But no one can agree on how to do it.

C|NET BB

 

 

This is part of CNET’s “Crossing the Broadband Divide” series exploring the challenges of getting internet access to everyone.

 

 

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In previous generations, communities thrived based on their proximity to infrastructure like roads, railways, airports and rivers to distribute goods. Today, it’s about having access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet. Communities without access will simply wither and die, says Jonathan Chambers, a former FCC official and partner at the Washington-based consulting firm Conexon, which works with electric co-ops looking to deliver rural broadband service.

People will vote with their feet and move away from places that do not provide high-speed internet access,” he said. “They will leave, and that community will not survive.”

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But the biggest barrier to getting broadband in certain areas of the country is low population density. Broadband providers simply won’t offer service if they can’t get enough customers to pay for it.

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The advent of 5G wireless, which promises to bring increased speeds and network responsiveness, is also unlikely to reach rural communities.

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Market forces are what will drive the deployment of 5G,” said Blair Levin, who oversaw the FCC’s National Broadband report in 2010 and who served as chief of staff to Clinton-era FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. “The 5G economics are very different than they are for 4G. And cities, because of their density, are in a much better position to drive 5G deployment than rural communities.”

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“Even if you make it cheaper to deploy and invest in the network, if you can’t sustain a business because the population density is too low, it doesn’t really matter,” Brake said.

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. . . 5G, which needs hundreds of radios to cover relatively short distances, is likely prohibitively expensive to make sense for rural areas.

There’s also the use of unlicensed TV broadcast spectrum called white spaces. Microsoft, which holds several royalty-free technology patents for using this spectrum, announced a program in July 2017 to connect 2 million people in rural America by 2022 through partnerships with telecom companies. The company promised to have 12 projects up and running in 12 states in the next 12 months.

The FCC has set rules for the use of white space spectrum and established an administrator of a national database to identify channels that can be used by devices accessing the shared spectrum. But there have been problems with the database’s accuracy, and there’s not yet an ecosystem of devices, which means it could be a while before the technology is widely used by consumers.

Full Article is HERE.  Color highlights added.

 

 

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Introducing the Community Networks Quickstart Program

Determining if a publicly owned network is right for your community is a multi-step, complex process. Many factors will influence whether or not the residents, business owners, and local leaders in your community will want to make an investment in Internet access infrastructure. ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative is now working with NEO Partners, LLC, to help local communities in the early phases as they consider investing in publicly owned infrastructure. For a limited time, a few select communities will receive special pricing to help spread the word about the Community Networks Quickstart Program. Apply by September 28th to be considered as one of the pilot communities.

Read More Here

This is an option more rural communities should be considering as the large Telcos are not going to bring broadband to rural communities unless the installation exceeds their ROI hurdles.  The Telcos are consumed by 5G mania, a technology that is too expensive for rural communities with low population densities. This is a DIY world, make plans based on a real-world assessment. Check out the Quick Start Models.

 

5G Is Going to Take Big Investment, How will it be Recovered?

There is growing discussion about the investment required to implemented 5G and how that investment is going to be recovered. Caroline Chan, Intel VP and GM of the 5G Infrastructure Division on the edge of 5G.

“How do 5G use cases benefit the enterprise?” she pondered during a panel conversation hosted by Cradlepoint in Austin, Texas, during a week of colocated 5G conferences. “That’s my personal interest–the enterprise edge. We all know that 5G, the way that we talk about, is going to take a lot of investment. Where are we going to get the return on investment?” Chan noted her involvement in 5G groups that look specifically at vertical use cases for automotive and industrial automation, for example. “The trick is, if you want to get more money, more than just a SIM card, you have to have enterprise,” she said.

More HERE.

My question is who is going to provide the investment for rural 5G? How will that investment go to be recovered, there are few automotive and industrial plants to automate and control through low latency IoT-type devices in rural communities? Low latency IoT applications is a core sales feature of 5G. How may low latency industrial applications exist in rural communities what would produce the revenue streams needed to recover the investment mentioned by Chan?

Rural communities need to examine their 5G expectations and consider some alternatives. Over 750 rural communities across the country have or are developing community fiber networks. More details HERE.

Small-Town Ingenuity Is Making Gigabit Broadband A Reality

With all the headlines about the lack of broadband in rural America, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all small towns are stuck in the dark age of dial-up internet.

The untold story of rural broadband is that over the past seven years, independent broadband networks have proliferated. Today, some of the fastest, most affordable internet in the country can be found in communities like Oskaloosa, Iowa (population:11,500); Powell, Wyoming (6,400); Red Wing, Minnesota (16,500); and Springfield, Vermont (9,000). According to a 2016 Federal Communications Commission data release, more than 1,100 rural fiber broadband providers operate networks of various sizes in some of the most remote parts of America, and more than 230 of those providers offer symmetrical (both download and upload) gigabit speeds.

Rural broadband deployment isn’t easy, but the biggest barriers to better connectivity are not simply geographical. Twenty-one states currently have laws—largely manufactured by telecom industry lobbyists—that impede independent ISPs trying to deploy fiber. Wilson, North Carolina, for example, was one of the first municipalities to build out a network and show that fiber to the home was possible in a rural town. But in response, lobbyists forced through legislation to restrict municipal networks in North Carolina. The absurd result of this was that the Wilson fiber network has actually had to shutter service for some of its customers.

[. . .]

Just how far and fast is rural gigabit-speed broadband being deployed? My organization, the Center on Rural Innovation, mapped it to learn more. Using the 2016 FCC data again, we found that more than 2,500 rural towns have access to fiber internet, representing more than 8.5 million rural Americans—a million more people than live in the Bay Area, including Silicon Valley. Of those, nearly 3 million have access to full symmetrical gigabit speeds. And though the gap between rural and non-rural fiber internet coverage is significant, it isn’t as overwhelming as many people think. More than 15 percent of rural Americans have access to fiber, compared with approximately 30 percent of people in suburban and urban areas.

Full article is HERE. This article mirror’s many of my thoughts on rural broadband band as critical infrastructure.

•  “Small towns and rural counties have leveraged their ability to issue inexpensive bonds to build world-class infrastructure.”

• “. . .generously fund construction of this kind of infrastructure just like it does for water and sewer capacity.”

Read the whole article!

Fiber Alternative in Rural Communities: Connectivity Matters

Article by Trevor Jones at Broadband Communities Magazine.

If your community is struggling with the economics of a townwide fiber network, you are not alone. The good news is that although wiring your whole town with fiber is the ideal solution, there are other options for getting broadband access to your constituents if you just can’t raise the funds – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

For as long as I have been engaged with community broadband networks, the technologies best suited for public investment have been a source of debate. Some believe public money should be invested only in fiber to the premises because fiber infrastructure investments have sufficient capacity to be future-proof for at least 20 years.

On the other hand, building fiber is expensive and time consuming, and a full-on commitment to a fiber-only solution probably means it will be many years before some areas see the kind of investment necessary to bring them improved service.

The Full article is HERE

Fixed wireless may also be a better solution than 5G for rural communities which lack the fiber infrastructure that 5G requires.

Verizon’s wireless chief on 5G use cases: retail, manufacturing, gaming and more

Fierce Wireless has the story:

And Dunne offered some specific 5G use cases that might leverage some of those features:

Retail: “Think in a real-time enterprise environment for retail, where you can deliver both quality of insight and information about your customers that you might have previously only assumed that an online retailer can have, in real time in a physical retail environment,” Dunne said, explaining that retailers could also offer augmented and virtual reality offerings through 5G.

Healthcare: Dunne said healthcare providers could use advanced network services to provide better and more effective long-term patient monitoring.

Gaming: “Things like gaming will be really, really interesting,” Dunne said, noting that lower latency will be key for the sector. “That’s probably where you get this extra level in your game that only Verizon’s 5G customers are able to access with the extra capability there.”

Added Dunne: “Clearly in the gaming world its the latency … Getting your retaliation in first in a gaming app is all that matters.”

Stock trading: Dunne said that Verizon could “deliver a trading experience on your mobile, in conjunction with Yahoo, that is best-in-class and perhaps even your ability to trade nanoseconds faster than somebody who is on a wired service.”

Smart cities: Dunne mentioned services like real-time facial recognition, traffic management and potentially autonomous vehicles as services enabled by an advanced, 5G network. He noted that such technology could improve the reaction time of autonomous vehicles significantly: For example, a car traveling 60 miles an hour could respond to an accident within the time it travels four inches rather than four feet on a 4G connection. “That sort of helps to give you a sense of how important that latency is,” he said.

Stadium experiences: 5G connections in locations like a stadium could provide new, real-time experiences to sports fans or concert goers, Dunne said.

Precision manufacturing: Dunne said 5G could aid in industries like manufacturing, which is an area that other companies have also discussed.

Full article is HERE.

The real question is will rural communities see 5G anytime in the near future?  Remember 5G is being brought to you by cooperations that must answer to stockholders who are expecting a profit on their investment. That makes AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint/TMobile profit-driven companies that make decisions based on return on investment.  Rural 5G installation are major risks, and will only be addressed after the all the low hanging fruit is all gone, and by then soon forgotten as the G6 hype will become the next big thing. Rural America will be left holding an empty bag of promises once again.   Rural America, if you want broadband for economic development, then build it, just like you build new sewer plants, extend water services and widen roads to meet the demand.

Breaking: Bright Fiber Sale Suspended until November, Public Utility Commission says

The state’s Public Utilities Commission has suspended the process of selling the Bright Fiber high-speed internet project to address issues and concerns raised by the public, a suspension scheduled to last until November, a commission spokesman said.

The suspension of an “advice letter,” which details the sale of Bright Fiber to Race Communications, occurred Wednesday — the same day a public comment period about the proposed transaction ended. Commission staff now will review issues and concerns raised in various letters it received.

Details HERE.