Fiber Technology, the right choice for OTELCO
Currently, the FCC defines ‘unserved’ as not having access to fixed broadband Internet speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Admittedly, those speeds can be achieved with traditional copper / DSL technology, but is it the most efficient from a Life Cycle Cost basis? Not by a long shot when you compare it to fiber technology.
Recently, OTELCO CEO, Rob Souza responded to a Portland Press Herald editorial about the FCC redefining what is considered adequate coverage where rural broadband is concerned.
The Press felt that such a decision from the FCC would leave rural America in the slow lane economically and from a quality of life perspective. Rob agreed. He also noted OTELCO’s commitment to deliver connectivity via fiber technology to the rural customers we’ve been serving for more than a century.
OTELCO has made a conscious decision to deploy fiber technology for all new infrastructure and, as necessary, to replace its copper technology with fiber.
Let’s face it, Internet demand isn’t going to decrease, copper has limitations, and fiber is future-proof as far as bandwidth potential. Fiber technology is best for subscribers, and, over the life cycle, best for the company.
Currently, we are constructing Lightwave Fiber infrastructure in our service areas in Northern Maine, Vermont, Alabama, and Missouri.
In Gray, ME we will begin Phase 1 of a Lightwave fiber build out on Shaker Road from the village center north to the Maine Turnpike overpass. This project is part of a multi-phase plan to eliminate the doughnut hole that was created when we expanded existing transport fiber infrastructure on route 100 to provide distribution, and a year later, with the help of ConnectME funding, delivered fiber to North Raymond Road and the Notched Pond Subdivision. The Shaker Road corridor, once phase 2 is complete, will connect those 2 builds to create a 9-mile contiguous Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) network.
The tip of the iceberg
At face value, this infrastructure investment may seem like a lot of progress, and to a degree it is; until you consider that OTELCO services approximately 98,000 subscriber lines, and these buildouts will provide service to approximately 2,080 rural low-density locations at a cost of more than $2,000,000. At least we’re not alone; any private company that shares the same fiber technology philosophy that we do is facing the same logistical and financial challenges.
How do you accelerate rural broadband deployment and maintain a high level of service?
The key here is service level. By simply reducing the bandwidth requirements that define ‘served’, one can boast that more people are ‘served’, but the truth is that the level of service is actually diminished.
Many communities, recognizing that private providers can only do so much with capital investment, are trying to find ways to expedite FTTP infrastructure in their communities. We’ve talked about Leverett MA in the past; Leverett provides an excellent model for a very successful rural municipal broadband deployment. We should know; we’ve have had the pleasure to serve as their Internet Service Provider (ISP) for LeverettNet since April of 2017.
Our experience with Leverett and some other communities that we work with has reaffirmed our belief that public-private collaboration-in tangent to our own broadband efforts-is a viable way to accelerate rural broadband deployment. We are happy to meet with municipalities, within our service footprints and beyond, to explore these collaborations.