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Broadband Infrastructure Bill

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Answering Broadband Questions in the Infrastructure Investment Bill

There is little doubt the long-awaited passing of President Biden's $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill, which includes unprecedented funding for broadband Internet for all, is a milestone in the economic advancement of America.

But for enterprise IT managers, there are many questions to be answered. When will they be able to review and scrutinize proposals? When will the funding for broadband spending actually be approved? And what will it cost to reach locations that weren’t reachable before?

Further still, will affordable broadband to all change the way enterprises look at the makeup of their workforce? With many more able to work from home part or full-time for the first time, will they need to adjust their corporate network planning?

Let us start answering questions about the broadband Internet aspects of the infrastructure. Here we go, from the beginning.

What is the first step under the bill?

Of the $65 billion for broadband in the infrastructure package, $42.5 billion goes to the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration to create the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program. "I will confess this is going to be a massive undertaking for the Department of Commerce, but we’re up for it, said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

What is the top priority in providing high-speed Internet?

According to Gina Raimondo, President Biden’s Secretary of Commerce, the first focus is delivering (affordable) broadband to unserved areas, relying on maps from the FCC. Underserved areas come later.

The bill defines unserved locations as those without access to at least 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up and without access to "latency sufficient to support real-time, interactive applications."

How is high-speed Internet defined for the purpose of this undertaking?

It appears 100 Mbit/sec down and 20 Mbit/sec up is the floor.

How much broadband is enough?

This is a tough question for Raimondo and crew and will likely -post initial installation- be one for service providers to address with follow on upgrades to the broadband foundation. “We have to make sure that we don’t spend this money overbuilding, said Raimondo. “Which means we’ll have to work very closely with the FCC and using their maps to make sure that we focus the money where broadband doesn’t exist now.”

What is the timeline for providing funding and financing for the deployment of broadband under the Biden bill?

When asked about the program timeline, Raimondo said the first expansion projects would get underway “well into next year” once the Commerce Department gets set up to distribute the funds.

What comes first?

The bill includes $42.45 billion in grants for expanding physical access to broadband, including building fiber or other networks.

The bill automatically awards $100 million to each state that can be used for technical assistance, to build out a state broadband office, or other efforts, for a total of $5 billion.

How do we make sure the estimated 19 million consumers without access to broadband Internet are served?

Raimondo stated there will be a "tremendous amount of federal oversight and transparency" pertaining to states' proposed broadband plans, and that there will be "very strict criteria" to ensure equitable affordability and accessibility.

Broadband Internet access is great, but what about affordability?

The deal's $65 billion investment ensures every American has access to reliable high-speed Internet with an historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment, just as the federal government made a historic effort to provide electricity to every American nearly one hundred years ago, according to a statement from The White House, which added: “The investments in this bill will help ensure every American can access affordable, high-speed Internet, which means requiring funding recipients to offer a low-cost affordable plan,” according to the White House.

“Everyone who gets a penny of this money is required to offer a low-cost, affordable plan; provide federal funding for broadband services to low-income families; requiring providers to be transparent about pricing to help families do comparison shopping for services where they have competitive options.”

Where are we with other broadband Internet efforts from earlier recovery and spending bills and edicts?

The first awards distributed under the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) American Rescue Plan programs have been made. The unit will fund a variety of activities, among which a state may choose one or more to fund, including supporting statewide broadband data collection, mapping efforts, and developing statewide broadband deployment and technical assistance plans.

All 59 states and territories have been invited to apply for a $1 million grant through EDA’s Statewide Planning program — one of six programs EDA developed to equitably distribute its $3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding.

These are the first EDA American Rescue Plan grants announced; the remainder will be disbursed in the coming months. The first awards are to Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The Road Ahead

We’ve answered many of the basic questions regarding the contents of the broadband segment of the infrastructure investment bill, but there are many more that need to be addressed. Stay tuned for continuing coverage of this landmark effort to expand high-speed Internet to all.

UC Reporting and Analysis Packages

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Advanced capabilities and analytics take center stage as enterprises consider third-party offerings to span the premises, cloud, and hybrid communications scenarios.

At a time when enterprises have on-premises communications equipment, cloud-based services, or use hybrid approaches, the toughest question for IT and business managers is increasingly: How can I get a handle on managing all three scenarios?

The answer to this challenge appears to be third-party reporting packages that automatically collect call data records and contact center metrics from many on-site systems and cloud telephony data sources.

Why? Single vendor (or even product-specific) native reporting applications are offered by UC system vendors and telephony system vendors. Oftentimes, in a single vendor environment, data is collected by multiple applications.

Enterprises can cover their entire infrastructure, replacing complexity with simplicity, by introducing consolidated reporting that IT and business managers can create and dashboards for real-time viewing.

Where to begin?

Sought after factors and functions in robust reporting solutions

-Multi-vendor support? If your enterprise uses multiple vendors’ telephony systems (legacy PBXs and newer UC platforms), you need to find a reporting package that supports the more complex infrastructure as your call processing needs to be managed as one, not as individual silos. Thanks to decentralized purchasing, M&As, consolidation, and maximizing investment in legacy systems, enterprises in several verticals find themselves facing the tall task of managing a multi-vendor infrastructure.

-Broad data source support: Look for consolidated reporting and analysis capabilities that are supported by drawing data from a wide range of UC platforms, legacy PBXs, UC platforms, videoconferencing tools, and numerous session border controllers (SBC).

-How reporting is offered: IT managers should expect to see flexibility in UC reporting solutions, with options beyond an on-premises software offering that include an end-user managed software-as-a-service option, as well as a hosted and managed software-as-a-service model.

Enterprises will appreciate the hosted options if they seek to avoid upfront capital expenditures with a low, scalable service fee. Customers typically get full access to the reporting application through a secure web browser interface. The vendor provides implementation and system administration along with application management.

-Check with your UC vendor. If you can wait, ask your vendor/vendor’s roadmap for its native reporting solution. If you do not see what you need, also review the list of reporting providers in their recommended partner program. This can be large when dealing with top telephony system vendors such as Cisco, Avaya, and Nortel. Also, check your vendor’s (or vendors’) list of integration partners.

-Reporting solution components. Regardless of your location or corporation (store vs. retail chain), the system needs a vast database as it will be the repository of all call data, frequently with data feeds from multiple applications per vendor. This archive will be searched regularly, so it needs a companion reporting engine that enables the on-demand creation of reports.

-Dashboards. As seeing is believing, or at least better understanding, another crucial component is a display (dashboard) for viewing real-time call handling stats at the site and corporate levels. This should provide graphics that users can view to get a solid handle on call volume and processing and take corrective action where needed. Also, the need for a single user interface for visibility into your call handling operations is essential to simplify ongoing monitoring and management.

-Custom reports. Enterprises require far more than standard canned reports as use cases and applications have made call processing more complex. The need to drill down to the phone extension to determine how calls are handled, or more importantly mishandled, or abandoned, is crucial to understand the caller experience. Dozens of canned reports are not enough if none cover the crucial aspect of your call operation you wish to measure and manage.

-Report creation. Beyond creating standard, canned reports, the solution must be simple and intuitive enough for department managers can create, understand, and act on custom reports without the common practice of business managers having to request the reports from their IT departments and wait for days, weeks, or longer for the reports. This speeds report creation and use while offloading an often-onerous task from IT departments.

-Drill down capability. Whether it is to identify caller complaints, misuse of facilities, abandoned calls, Freedom of Information Act requests, or emergency calls, the reporting package, with its searchable archive of call data, must be able to quickly identify individual calls by caller ID and react accordingly.

-Video collaboration support. Covid boosted the use of video communications as organizations raced to adopt an effective means for meetings that included blended work from home and work from office employees. If your enterprise wants to report on expanding use of these video collaboration tools, they will need a reporting package capable of understanding their use and managing resources accordingly.

The spike in the use of Microsoft Teams (by enterprises), Zoom (by educators) underscore the increasing need to support and optimize the use of video tools. Companies need to apply analytics to control and manage their use of these offerings for several reasons, including the alignment of telecom facilities with traffic volume and performing chargeback applications.

Up next: Use cases and benefits of reporting offerings

UC reporting packages can streamline the way customers manage their communications infrastructure in this time of marked historic change in the way businesses conduct business. In the second installment in this two-part series, we will explore top uses of UC reporting and analysis offerings, with benefits realized across vertical industries. They include retail, healthcare, the public sector (state and local government), and higher education.

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The low-earth orbit satellite (LEO) space race is underway and warrants watching and continued evaluation.

The latest space race, not billionaires and rockets, has gained attention from network planners here on Earth. This begs the question among enterprise IT managers and industry experts: Are Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite-provided broadband services a viable alternative to terrestrial options?

How LEO satellites work

With earlier geostationary satellites, several high-orbit birds could provide global coverage, albeit from over 22,000 above Earth. With LEO satellites, which are set at about 100-1,200 miles above the planet, a LEO can cover about 1/66th of the globe, which means a large constellation of birds is required for global coverage. Though they have shorter lifespans, they are more advanced and less expensive.

At present, Elon Musk's SpaceX, Amazon, Telesat, and OneWeb are vying to support next-gen networking-driven initiatives here on Earth, likely providing IT managers with fresh new options for supporting new and rearchitected business undertakings. One caveat: Amazon’s Project Kuiper has not yet launched LEO satellites.

That's because the reality behind this generation of LEO satellites is that creating a space fleet of birds is both capital intensive and time-consuming, all while fiber and fixed wireless are advancing quickly here on Earth as a popular means of providing broadband network connectivity today, as a largely government-funded broadband breakout is underway. Much of the focus is on unserved and underserved rural areas with the goal of closing the digital divide.

Early guidance, factors for IT managers

Speed and latency

Musk’s SpaceX has been forthcoming on the speed and latency of its Starlink offering. The company posted the latest update on its website: “Starlink is now delivering initial beta service both domestically and internationally and will continue expansion to near-global coverage of the populated world in 2021.

During beta, users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/sec to 150Mb/sec and latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.

As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations, and improve our networking software, data speed, latency, and uptime will improve dramatically."

“There is certainly a lot of buzz around Starlink and some of the speeds early customers are seeing,” began Jeff Heynen, vice-president, Broadband Access and Home Networking at Dell’ Oro Group. (In a Q2 test, Starlink was pegged at 45 ms, while all fixed averaged 14 ms, according to Speedtest).

Space race

Starlink's Internet speeds are fast approaching those of regular broadband, according to Speedtest. The Musk service posted an average Q2 download speed of 97.23 Mbps, meaning it took about a minute to download a film. Starlink had the fastest satellite internet speeds, beating HughesNet and Viasat, according to Speedtest.

Musk’s service was the only satellite internet provider in the United States with fixed-broadband-like latency figures and median download speeds fast enough to handle most of the needs of modern online life at 97.23 Mbps during Q2 2021 (up from 65.72 Mbps in Q1 2021). HughesNet was a distant second at 19.73 Mbps (15.07 Mbps in Q1 2021) and Viasat third at 18.13 Mbps (17.67 Mbps in Q1 2021). “None of these are as fast as the 115.22 Mbps median download speed for all fixed broadband providers in the U.S. during Q2 2021, but it beats digging twenty miles (or more) of trench to hook up to local infrastructure,” said Speedtest.

Another research firm, McKinsey, has noted that the latency of current-era LEO satellites will be far less than first-generation LEO birds and offer speeds faster than copper and cable.

Coverage: Now and later

IT managers considering the satellite Internet option will need details on the LEO satellite providers' coverage plans to determine which of their sites fall into the coverage zone. They must also press terrestrial carriers on where their high-speed networks are – and will be – as they spend to expand their broadband networks, especially with FCC, USDA, and Federal funding and financing programs.

Service-Level Agreements (SLA)

Whether IT managers are kicking the tires or want to begin using LEO satellite services, they would be well advised to seek aggressive SLAs to ensure that the evolving service meets their networking needs.

This is important because LEO satellite companies aren’t finished. (SpaceX is still in a beta-test, albeit international and long-running). It’s unclear when it will end. Other providers offer commercial services now and plan to add birds.

And then there’s Amazon, which could launch its first handful of satellites by yearend.

Primetime Players?

At present, LEO satellite services have a way to go to compete with options like fixed wireless (cellular and proprietary) which don’t require big digs for deployments, nor continuing launches of communications satellites. The future, however, could be different.

“The target for LEO satellite service is residential, certainly given the promised bandwidth and latency ranges. Obviously, enterprise IT managers can’t really afford to move forward with a solution that will likely have some outages,” explained Heynen. “Even if a business is in a rural area and requires some type of broadband service with higher SLAs than residential service, LEOS are probably not ready for prime time, just yet."

Reality Check

That story might change in the future when satellite coverage is more robust, Heynen added. That’s a work-in-progress for several providers and TBD for interested parties like Amazon. With this LEO satellite space race, there is no finish line.

(Source: Pixabay)

The National Football League’s long history of experiences – good and bad - with emerging technology products and services provides pure B2Bers with time and effort-saving learnings.

Long thought to be business-to-consumer organizations by their B2B counterparts, enterprise IT would be well advised to keep a close eye on sports entertainment entities that it turns out play in both spaces simultaneously. Why sports? Because they have years of hands-on experience with emerging technology products and services that most others can benefit from.

Whether it's Wi-Fi 6, 5G, analytics, facial recognition, or video capture and distribution, the National Football League (NFL) has been there and is doing that on either a league or team venue-wide basis, accumulating expertise in areas of interest to B2B firms.

Sports leagues are B2B and B2C entities

Like other sports leagues around the world, the NFL’s B2B product is live sports content (programming), with contests carried live by the broadcast TV networks (that originally took the sport to the masses) as well as Internet streaming services in the U.S. and abroad.

Yes, the NFL, like other sports leagues, also doubles as a B2C operation, with a key slice of its revenue initially started as ticket sales for fans in the stands and has evolved to monetizing followers through stadium-wide Wi-Fi to keep them engaged with all forms of social media and video sharing sites. Secondary revenue streams are concession and merchandise sales.

It was little surprise when the NFL branched out into console gaming with its wildly popular Madden partnership with EA Sports, which in turn has given rise to e-sports. Several team owners across U.S. pro sports have taken stakes in e-sports teams.

Another means to grow the leagues is through sports betting, which is widely available and helps sports attract additional viewers.

Technology Experiences

Facial recognition: security vs. privacy

Early testers and users of facial recognition technology: Super Bowl 35 was among the first entities in the U.S. to try it in 2001 in Tampa, less than a year before the world-changing terrorist attacks on 9/11. The league’s New Orleans Saints were among the first (2020) to use facial recognition systems to control access to the club’s practice facility. This made the Saints one of the first in the U.S. to employ it for a non-law enforcement application.

The Cleveland Browns announced early in the season that they are using a facial recognition option as an alternative to paper and mobile tickets for fans. “Fans can enroll and link their ticketing account to a selfie and come to the stadium and enter in with just their face,” explained Brandon Covert, VP of Information and Technology for the Cleveland Browns, in an interview with WKY-TV in Cleveland. Covert says this will make for a faster experience. “Fans don’t have to use their phone, don’t have to add tickets to their wallet, which is already a good process. This makes it just even quicker.”

Other venue owners are exploring the controversial tech as a means of ensuring that fans who have been banned from their stadiums for bad behavior don’t gain access to the facilities.

Wi-Fi: Then and now

Since pioneering stadium Wi-Fi use with the league's inaugural implementation nearly a decade ago in 2012, the New England Patriots, the football club, has upgraded the connectivity foundation multiple times and just recently worked with partner Extreme Networks in the last year for an installation of Wi-Fi-6 (aka 802.11 ax) to stay ahead of soaring use at the over 65,000-seat multi-purpose stadium.

The emergence of stadium Wi-Fi has been a hit with smartphone-toting fans and content creating teams, the league, and an array of team and stadium apps that engage fans and enable functions and processes. Fans have responded by using the stadium Wi-Fi networks and cellular services to share content with social media sites and to send images and videos to friends.

Analytics

Like a huge swath of enterprises, the NFL has used a variety of technologies, including Wi-Fi analytics packages, to gain vivid insights into fan activity and to help monetize the fans. An offering like Extremes has been providing teams and Super Bowl hosts granular data to identify usage trends and plan their underlying networks accordingly.

Video networking and distribution

Given that the NFL's B2B product is live sports programming with frills, the other Bs are the TV broadcast networks and, more recently, streaming services. The league has used technology to improve and expand both live and on-demand video content for many years. It created two coveted premium channels of its own – NFL Networks, which carries Thursday Night Football, and NFL RedZone, which is a live offering show scoring clips of all games played on Sundays.

A big slice of NFL stadiums has already been equipped with networked HD video cameras to provide 360-degree replays for fans in the stands, NFL websites, and highlights shows. These ring-based systems from Intel can require a mini data center connected to a GPON network to carry and process the huge amount of video used to create next-gen replays. Fiber and football go together.

Going global, through streaming

Enhancing the programming product and expanding its use are core to the NFL's B2B business strategy. That's why the league has formed streaming deals in Canada, China, Europe, and beyond in its efforts to take their live games (with ads and sponsorships) global. That has been aided by holding two regular season games a year in the U.K.

Works in progress

Some of the NFL’s tech initiatives have been met with headwinds and delays, most notably the league’s mobile ticketing mandate this year that eliminates the use of paper tickets and has angered fans because of long waits for entry because the Wi-Fi doesn’t provide a strong or reliable enough signal to scan the tickets in the cellphone’s Google Wallet.

Changing or replacing long-standing processes, whether for business or consumers (fans), is yet another area where the NFL and other pro football leagues have much in common with B2B enterprises. And enhancing current content products needs to work for everyone as the league serves two interconnected customer bases: businesses and consumers.

(Source: Pixabay)

Cutting Through the Fog Surrounding Private 5G Networks

About a year ago, Deere & Co. grabbed headlines for entering the Citizen’s Band Radio Service (CBRS) auction and buying licenses for spectrum. It plans to use the spectrum in private 5G networks in manufacturing facilities and to enable intelligent agriculture, both in rural areas that are not tops on operators’ rollout lists.

Since the auction, it seems, everyone in the fast-evolving wireless networking ecosystem, except Deere, has talked endlessly about their private 5G network plans: wireless operators, network integrators, equipment vendors, and spectrum license owners. And all will team with partners to deliver the next-gen networks.

Defining “private 5G network”

The pressing question is how enterprises define “private” 5G networks, this at a time when providers express interest in staying involved after the network is built by selling management, monitoring, security, multivendor systems integration, and oversight services to enterprises. These options are in sharp contrast to the time-tested DIY private net approach that Deere seems driven by.

Operators clearly want in on the private 5G network opportunity by offering managed network options, with companies offering network operations centers (NOC) from which to provide the above-mentioned services, as well as SLAs.

Enterprise-handled?

Do we assume that enterprises handle configuration and ongoing configuration management, performance management, and setting service levels? These foundational tasks must be high on the decision list for those seeking private networks.

Once enterprises determine the ROI of a private 5G network is better than that associated with using an operator’s public 5G service, which comes down to the application and geographic coverage issues, the options are aplenty.

Enterprise IT needs to decide exactly how much, if any, of a private 5G network it wants provided and managed. They must also decide where they stand on top issues and which assets they currently possess.

The checklist

Specs and standards: In an emerging ecosystem, it's always wise to consult with relevant industry and standards-making bodies to determine what has been defined, what's pending, and what important areas ate TBD. Whether it's industry associations and/or standards-crafting bodies, enterprises, and the entities they need to make private 5G networks are on the road to making these high-speed nets a reality.

Talent: Does your enterprise have staff with the knowledge and skills needed to handle and manage the private 5G network? If not, it’s available for hire or pay from independent contractors, in some cases those firms that helped U.S. operators with their current 5G public network rollouts.

Equipment partners: In the last year, network operators have announced partnerships with an array of wireless equipment vendors such as Ericsson, Nokia, and Siemens AG, to team to build private 5G networks, most of which are already working with enterprises themselves on pilot tests to gain crucial experience with the opportunity. These engagements are underway around the globe.

Security: Enterprises current on 5G are aware the technology in and of itself is secure. However, this make-or-break responsibility may be beyond the skillsets of some users' corporate IT and related departments. These firms can engage third-party entities that understand their business, applications, performance levels, and goals.

Spectrum: The CBRS auction enabled Deere, Chevron, several power companies, and manufacturers to buy licenses for 10 MHz slices of spectrum in the shared usage band. There are mechanisms – spectrum access systems - in place to prevent interference in the CBRS spectrum. Companies such as Federated Wireless provide spectrum to enterprises -often as part of network solutions - since the CBRS auction closed.

In August, Federated and Anterix, a holder of spectrum in the 900 MHz band, announced a partnership to provide a dual-band offering to enterprises in the utilities vertical industry. IT managers should expect more vertical-specific solutions providers - with valuable knowledge of focused applications and experience working in specific markets - to emerge.

Design, construction, and management: Options for private 5G nets are emerging. For example, Betacom, a longtime design and deployment partner to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, launched a fully managed private 5G network service in late May. The company handles network design, deployment, and management for the offering. Betacom explains enterprise customers retain ownership of the network and local control of their data. Management is provided by its NOC, which is hosted on Microsoft Azure.

Exploring the wireless WAN: For those enterprises looking for a managed, high-speed connectivity without owning all the components, Boise, IA-based Cradlepoint offers wireless WAN managed service that can include edge networking gear such as 5G routers. Cradlepoint was acquired by Ericsson in September 2020.

Time and timing

Given the early state of the private 5G network ecosystem, IT managers and their businesses aren't hard-pressed to make a quick decision. This can be a positive since many of the players in the ecosystem haven’t established a track record in the space per se.

Those operators, vendors, integrators, and service providers seeking entry into the ecosystem have made news with partnerships, initial services, and tests with household names in the U.S. and abroad; actual commercial deployments are largely in the early stages.

This leaves plenty of time for enterprises to evaluate all aspects of the private 5G network opportunity. The menu of options is under construction.

(Source: Pixabay)

Rising Upload Speeds Drive Symmetric Internet Access Rollout

With two large spending efforts focused on spreading broadband far and wide in the U.S., operator demand for symmetrical Internet access portends to feed American businesses a high fiber diet. Though Internet access has long been dominated by asymmetrical services with their far higher download than upload speeds, today’s work from home workforce is driving the need for symmetrical services. And fiber’s ability to deliver matching speeds has caught the attention of businesses, operators, and vendors worldwide.

Two drivers

Why? Two reasons. First, not unlike the country’s transportation infrastructure, water systems, and schools, much of the nation's networking infrastructure could benefit from modernization and expansion.

Researchers see record operator spending on 10G-Passive Optical Network infrastructure of almost all sizes. That signals operator interest in deploying and extending these fiber-based systems.

Secondly, the spread of remote work, school at home, telemedicine, and video surveillance apps requires higher upload speeds on Internet access links. Covid showed us how much we could do from home, so enterprises and service providers alike are looking to plan their infrastructure needs now with this combined growth in mind.

Future-proof rural broadband?

And while fixed wireless, satellite, coaxial cable, and fiber can all deliver broadband to businesses large and small in urban areas or underserved rural regions, carrier spending shows that fiber (the most expensive and demanding to deploy media) is a favorite for its ability to support symmetrical Internet access now and in the future.

Though massive FCC and Federal broadband deployment spending efforts don’t specify a media for operators, the need for links with matching download and upload speeds is growing.

Supporting higher upload speeds during Covid

According to the Q2 2020 OpenVault Broadband Insight (OVBI) report that some of the upstream changes were already being seen then. The firm provides data analytics and tracking service to operators. And Comcast released network usage stats in early spring, claiming upstream traffic on its network jumped 56% during 2020.

“Pandemic lockdowns changed the nature of upstream usage – in all likelihood, forever,” the more recent OpenVault report noted. “Continued high levels of remote work and a new embrace of videoconferencing for communication needs mean that consumption will pressure the limited upstream capacity of many broadband infrastructures. Moreover, the unique role of the upstream as an enabler of two-way communication makes unfettered performance essential.”

Another issue worthy of consideration for IT managers is that the uplink growth in data is growing at a higher rate than the downlink, according to AT&T SVP of Wireless and Access Technology Igal Elbaz. And conferencing (and collaboration) apps, including Zoom, require faster uplink speeds.

Those now driving the need for symmetrical Internet include:

  • Students
  • Businesses
  • Telecommuters
  • Content creators
  • Gamers

As a result of the usage from these groups, even those who aren’t fiber-first operators see the building need for symmetrical Internet access.

Billons for broadband

An injection of billions in funding for the deployment of high-speed networks beyond the reach of those today gives hope that rural broadband will not forever continue as an oxymoron or as a bridge too far for IT managers. The rural broadband issue has gotten renewed attention, with IT managers having to support a home-based workforce.

Launched last year, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is the FCC’s latest step to fund service provider deployment of broadband networks in rural America. The agency is directing $20.4 billion, over ten years, to finance up to gigabit speed services in unserved rural areas, connecting millions of American homes and businesses to digital infrastructure.

But for all the plans to extend high-speed broadband to the unserved and underserved, it’s difficult to predict when infrastructure that supports symmetrical Internet access will have a solid rollout timeline.

Progress vs. Congress

It appears that few are laughing at the joke that Congress is the opposite of progress when it comes to government-funded broadband rollout as the President's American Jobs Act, which contains $100 billion for the massive undertaking, has been slowed, and his current infrastructure plan’s broadband spending cut to $65 billion thanks to near gridlock in Washington, D.C.

The President believed the U.S. could bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every American through a historic investment of $100 billion. It will be interesting to see if the reworked bill passes, what can be done for the lesser amount.

The President’s original plan prioritized building “future proof” broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas so that we finally reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage.

Media favoritism?

Further, an industry association is upset with the FCC’s RDOF plan, claiming the agency favors fiber over other broadband media.

The Wireless Internet Service Provider Association (WISPA) laid out in late June its concerns to the FCC about the agency's awarding of the RDOF awards. The association, which includes Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) providers, believes the FCC prefers fiber deployments and that the emphasis should be on reaching unserved regions ASAP as opposed to focusing on symmetrical broadband speeds.