We are in an unprecedented moment in time. $100B in Federal and State funding is available to broadband providers to help bridge the digital divide. Local networks, which provide high-speed broadband access to communities, need to connect with regional and national networks. Enabling that connectivity is middle mile networks which ensure reliable high-speed broadband to those communities. At the Fiber Connect Conference in Nashville, TN (June 13 and 14 2022), more than 3,000 attendees and over 193 exhibitors came together to address the question of how to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities and to learn how to unlock the possibilities of their fiber infrastructure investments.
I was honored to participate in two panels regarding middle mile innovation and bottlenecks. Here are my top six takeaways on how to ensure success with the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.
- Understand the U.S. Government Broadband Funding/State grant programs, their timelines, requirements, and process. This will help ensure you are bidding for middle mile broadband infrastructure programs where you have a competitive advantage to win and manage the timeline between winning the bid and getting the funding. For example, the RDOF grant process in some cases took more than a year between when a bid was submitted to when money was appropriated.
- Be aware of the impact supply chain constraints can have to your network build. Make decisions as early as possible with your chosen supplier to get in line for gear. Be aware that supply chain delays can pose a risk to meeting program milestones.
- Consider how you can make your network resilient, and not just redundant. Connectivity is mission critical to emerging hybrid work models. Leverage capabilities such as PON in the last mile, automation to simplify network operations, and segment routing can help keep failure domains smaller.
- Look at building service differentiation to provide better customer experiences. Software defined access networks enable simpler and faster service introduction allowing you to provision lower latency or higher bandwidth that will help you differentiate your service and brand.
- Add DNS layered security to stop your backbone bandwidth from being eaten up by Malware, Phishing, and Command & Control attacks.
- Establish partnerships in your communities to reach underserved communities and develop business models and low-cost options that encourage subscriber uptake: SLG Inclusive Connectivity Broadband Whitepaper
Cisco is delivering a new generation of network infrastructure technologies and innovation that provide more capacity and greater flexibility at a lower cost per subscriber, helping to change the economics of the Internet. Here are a few examples:
- Capacity at lower cost with Cisco Silicon One and Routed Optical Networking
- Lower OpEx with simplified networks via Cisco Crosswork Network Automation
- Improved sustainability and flexibility for remote deployment scenarios
- Flexible consumption and payment models that enable you to pay as you grow
These technologies can make it much easier and less expensive for service providers to expand their broadband offerings and invest in middle mile networks. Now you can experience them up close and in person at the Cisco Broadband Innovation Center located in Research Triangle Park, NC. This is a perfect opportunity to expand your knowledge and expertise in rural broadband network development and middle mile networking. Not only will you see how to model and address your own specific use cases, but service providers can also focus on how to be more prepared for grant applications by understanding ways to benefit from Cisco’s next-generation network innovations. And it’s important to remember that federal grants will be awarded to the service providers with the best solutions, so it’s critical to work with a proven company at the forefront of rural broadband development.
The new generation of Cisco broadband network solutions can help you meet the needs of a growing hybrid workforce, deliver more reliable broadband capacity to rural regions, and bridge the digital divide. Ready to see firsthand how the innovations mentioned above, coupled with increased knowledge and experience, can change the game for your network and subscribers?