Fiber

Three broadband industry associations sent a joint letter to NTIA Assistant Secretary Alan Davidson urging the agency to continue to prioritize fiber as it reviews states’ plans for the BEAD rural broadband funding program. The three associations are ACA Connects, the Fiber Broadband Association and NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.

“Too often, as federal broadband funding programs have moved from concept to implementation, there has been a tendency to seek to support broadband infrastructure that is ‘just good enough’ for the moment,” the letter says. “Under these prior programs, initial lofty goals of giving every American robust and affordable connectivity that will last for generations have given way to delivering the bare minimum to satisfy user demands here and now — leaving consumers and communities vexed and resulting in the need to establish yet more programs to address the needs left unaddressed.”

Some stakeholders have argued that the BEAD program doesn’t have sufficient funding to prioritize fiber as much as other stakeholders may want. But the associations noted that the number of eligible locations continues to decline because of ongoing buildouts. As a result, the letter argues, BEAD funding won’t have to stretch as far as some people anticipate and should be affordable for buildouts to the vast majority of locations.

The letter called upon NTIA to establish metrics to track whether states and territories have connected all eligible locations to broadband and whether they have maximized all-fiber buildouts. The three organizations also want the NTIA to identify percentage ranges of eligible locations in each state and territory that it would expect to receive fiber under a service provider selection process that is faithful to the Notice of Funding Opportunity’s fiber preference.

A recent report from Cartesian for ACA Connects estimated that the BEAD program has enough funding to get fiber to about 71% of eligible locations, including 21% states that could see 100% fiber deployments.

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