May 2021 Vol. 76 No.5


Fast & Affordable ‘Internet for All’ Requires Fiber Optic Hardware: We Can Do This!

By: Bob Breeden, Senior Vice President of ElectriCom, Chairman of PCCA

One thing we’ve all learned over the last year is that fast, affordable internet service is not a luxury – it’s a necessity for all, including folks working from home, school children, underserved communities and doctors serving rural patients. Building nationwide 21st century internet service is not rocket science, but it does take the members of the Power & Communications Contractors Association’s (PCCA) training, expertise and deployment strategies to accomplish this worthwhile task. We can do this! 

With Congress looking to invest in America’s internet infrastructure, the smart, cost-effective way to get the job done is with proven technology like broadband fiber optic lines. Unlike other unproven technologies, fiber operates at the speed of light. And it’s secure, not effected by atmospheric conditions or multiple users. Nothing is faster or has greater capacity for bandwidth as the need for higher speeds continues to grow. It is future proof. Using fiber optic cable means very low latency, or lag-times. 

This is why the PCCA supports the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act (AAIA) of 2021 and urges all members of Congress to become co-sponsors of H.R. 1873 by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) or its Senate companion bill S. 745 by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). This legislation would authorize some $80 billion to fund competitive bidding systems used to build broadband infrastructure and provide the internet speeds needed for an essential service that also boosts our economy. 

PCCA represents contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers who build and repair America’s power and communications infrastructure, including electric transmission, distribution, and substation facilities and broadband, telephone and cable television systems. 

Faster internet speeds 

It is increasingly clear that the Federal Communication Commission’s target speeds of 25/3 megabits per second (Mbps) are already obsolete and that achieving speeds of 100/100 Mbps would provide broadband systems that are far faster and as “future proof” as possible. PCCA was pleased to see that carriers are now committing to significantly increase the broadband speeds they provide, as demonstrated in the recent reverse auction for Phase I of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), where 99.7 percent of winning RDOF bidders committed to providing at least 100/20 Mbps broadband service, and 85 percent of those will offer gigabit service. 

The Clyburn/Klobuchar bill (AAIA) reflects the progress made in terms of increasing broadband speed goals, as 75 percent of the funding is to be used “for a nationwide system of competitive bidding to fund broadband deployment in unserved areas, defined as areas with service below 25/25 megabits per second and areas with low-tier service, defined as areas with service between 25/25 and 100/100 Mbps.” 

Also, the bill provides that if a state “does not have unserved areas or areas with low-tier service, funding may be used for broadband deployment in areas with mid-tier service, defined as greater than 100/100 Mbps but less than 1 gigabit per second symmetrical.” Enactment of these speed requirements would take important steps toward meeting current demand, especially as the nation battles through the Covid-19 pandemic and puts us on a better path for the future. 

Milestone payments for broadband installers 

In addition, the most effective way to ensure that RDOF funds are used wisely is to allocate them in separate and distinct tranches based on performance. These payment milestones could be identified in advance of performance milestones. This payment oversight, versus a single, lump-sum, upfront payment to installers, would ensure that fiber optic cable is fully and properly installed, while protecting taxpayer investments. 

Just as PCCA contractors were instrumental in bringing electricity to rural Americans in the 1930s, now is our chance to bring fast, reliable internet service to all Americans. Let’s do it with fiber. We can do this!

From Archive


{{ error }}
{{ comment.comment.Name }} • {{ comment.timeAgo }}
{{ comment.comment.Text }}