Fiber Optic
Industry Insight Series

There’s a clear reason the federal government is taking a whole-of-nation approach to high-speed internet: access has become vital to thrive in today’s hyper-connected society. For the U.S. to carry its position of global leadership well into the future, all of its citizens must have reliable, affordable next-generation broadband access to participate on the digital stage, both socially and economically. That’s why local, state, and federal government agencies have made optical fiber broadband funding a top priority—one that presents an opportunity to connect the unconnected.

The Mission: Incorporate Fiber

On Nov. 15, 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law, setting aside $65 billion for broadband initiatives. The IIJA allocated the bulk of this funding ($42 billion) to the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). These grants will be used to build and improve broadband infrastructure in areas that currently lack next-generation access.

Digital inclusion is now regarded as a fundamental human right. Government programs are designed to support the otherwise unfeasible business case of extending broadband networks to these communities. Rural areas pose particular challenges due to low housing density and difficult terrain. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide these communities with robust service that meets their needs today and can be easily upgraded in the future.

Optimal Infrastructure: The Case for Fiber

The prevailing debate is not whether fiber is the best technology, but how to extend it to the most households currently without access. There will be a small percentage of households that may not be economically feasible to reach with optical fiber. In such cases, alternative technologies should be considered to ensure funds are utilized to bring fiber to the highest number of households possible.

Constructing a network is a costly endeavor. A meticulous focus on cost optimization will allow more homes to benefit from optical fiber. All-fiber broadband networks have been deployed since the turn of the century, with over half the country now having access. The industry has reaped the benefits of deployment scale and relentless investment in innovations to drive out unnecessary costs, improve efficiency, and enhance speed of deployment.

Fiber provides virtually unlimited bandwidth and scalability, two factors that make it the most future-proof technology available today. Fiber networks can be upgraded to meet increasing bandwidth demands through simple electronic adjustments. This is why many broadband funding awards are being allocated to projects that include fiber. For instance, when the state of Oklahoma recently announced $374 million in broadband funding, about 80% of the awards were specifically for fiber broadband projects.

The Bottom Line

We are now living in an era of unprecedented broadband funding and network expansion. Ensuring connectivity for all has emerged as a national imperative. With these efforts, the U.S. is well-positioned to offer its citizens reliable and affordable broadband service, contributing to our nation’s continued global leadership.

To learn how to participate and take advantage of the funding available, visit the NTIA’s updated interactive broadband funding guide, or check out our article, “5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Broadband Funding,” to learn how Corning can help you.

This series features insight into important broadband industry issues from industry leaders.

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