This edition includes RDOF amnesty opinion, optical fiber market growth forecast, Frontier means business with fiber, BEAD status update, fiber training partnership, don’t wait for BEAD to start workforce development, fiber to the military base, cash for copper, T-Mobile plan to buy USCellular, Google Fiber spinoff coming? and E-Rate for WiFi?

  1. This is an opinion article on RDOF Amnesty. While we typically try to stick to industry news, this is an interesting article and adds to the debate. Read more.
  2. Value of optical fiber market to jump. The value of the optical fiber market is expected to jump to $11.9 billion by 2032 up from $7.4 billion in 2023, according to a report published May 16th by Allied Market Research. Read more.
  3. Frontier’s executive chairman isn’t too worried about FWA and fiber overbuilders. At a J.P. Morgan investor conference, Frontier Executive Chairman John Stratton reiterated the company’s year-end goal of building 1.3 million fiber passing. It’s also about “68-70%” complete on its multi-year target to reach 10 million locations with fiber. Read more.

    Experts warn: Don’t wait to assemble and train your workers for BEAD.”

  4. NTIA forecasts a “steady drumbeat” of BEAD Volume 2 approvals each week. Evan Feinman, director for the BEAD program with NTIA, provided an update on the program at the Connect(X) conference in Atlanta. “All states have submitted their Volume 1 proposals to NTIA,” Feinman said. “We are rolling through Volume 2s, recognizing the scale of those documents. Many of these Volume 2s are 300-400 pages single-spaced…The next phase is the most critical. States will announce the eligible locations for BEAD funding and the manner in which they will accept bids.” Read more.
  5. Washington ISP enters partnership to train new fiber technicians. As officials in Washington prepare to utilize more than $1.2 billion awarded to the state by the BEAD Program, one local ISP, Whidbey Telecom, is taking the initiative to make sure the state’s labor force is ready to handle the job. (Earlier this month nearly $4.5 million was allocated for Whidbey Telecom by the Washington State Public Works Board—the money will go towards constructing 44 miles of fiber to reach over 1,500 end users in the Clinton area). A new partnership forged between the ISP, the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA), and the Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center, a free, public school that serves high-school students from Snohomish and Island counties based in Everett, will help make the school’s planned offering of Optical Telecom Installer Certification (OpTIC Path) courses a reality. Read more. 
  6. Speaking of Workforce development: Experts warn: Don’t wait to assemble and train your workers for BEAD.  State workforce groups typically wait until there is a job shortfall before they initiate training programs. A staffing professional for broadband construction says 25-30% of the costs for upcoming fiber deployments will be for labor. Read more.

Editorial Comment: Lean on your suppliers like UCL Swift to help you prepare your workforce with products that speed and ease installations. Many suppliers like UCL Swift also provide free hands-on training for customers.

  1. New project to deploy fiber to military bases across U.S. Fiber provider eCommunity announced that it will deploy fiber-to-the-home to U.S. military bases across the country beginning this month.  The initiative will kick off with a FTTH upgrade at Fort Eisenhower in Augusta, Georgia, marking the first significant communications infrastructure enhancement in 30 years at the base. Fort Eisenhower is the first of a national network completely dedicated to military housing, separate from civilian traffic, to improve performance for those residents and minimize security concerns. Read more.
  2. Telcos, do you want to turn old copper into cash? A company called Extracta Group says it has the expertise to remove copper cables from telecom networks, even those covered in lead, and obtain the best market price for the salvaged copper. There are several reasons why a telco with legacy copper cables might want to extract those cables. First, copper is valuable. It’s currently priced at an all-time high of more than $5 per pound. Secondly, some carriers, such as AT&T, are trying to convert large swathes of their copper plant to fiber. But when conduits are filled with copper, there sometimes isn’t room for fiber. And third, most everyone in the telecom world is aware of the Wall Street Journal story that broke last year, revealing that old telecom networks in the U.S. still have a lot of copper cables. And a substantial number of these cables are covered in lead sheathing, which can pose health and environmental risks. Read more.
  3. T-Mobile to buy most of UScellular for $4.4B  T-Mobile has agreed to buy substantially all of UScellular’s wireless operations for about $4.4 billion, including its 4 million wireless customers and certain spectrum assets. UScellular is retaining about 70% of its spectrum assets and its 4,382 towers. T-Mobile will enter into a long-term lease arrangement on at least 2,100 towers. Read more.

    “According to Recon Analytics’ Roger Entner, Google Fiber’s move is likely a sign it’s starting the process of spinning off from Alphabet to become a standalone business.”

  4. Related to above: T-Mobile’s planned $4.4 billion purchase of UScellular’s wireless operations and a portion of its spectrum is expected to boost T-Mobile rural wireless coverage and TDS fiber investment. “There will be more investment in communities because of this deal,” said UScellular President and CEO Laurent Therivel.  Noting that investment in rural America is costly and challenging, he said, “You need scale in order to do that. T-Mobile will be able to bring that scale in a way that UScellular could not, Therivel said.” Read more.
  5. Google Fiber just landed its first chief financial officer. That could be a sign of big things to come, an analyst told us. John Abbot, who was most recently CFO at AI company Dataminr, will oversee Google Fiber’s Finance, Strategy & Analytics and Accounting teams. According to Recon Analytics’ Roger Entner, Google Fiber’s move is likely a sign it’s starting the process of spinning off from Alphabet to become a standalone business. But when that might happen is anyone’s guess. “It’s hard to predict,” Entner said. “Perhaps it could happen within six months or it could take a couple of years.” He explained ever since Ruth Porat came on as Alphabet CFO, the company has been trying to curb its spending. Prior to that, Google Fiber was expanding “dramatically.” But in 2016, Google Fiber put all expansions on hold and it wasn’t until 2022 that it resumed deploying to new markets. On the expansion side, Google Fiber this month announced its service is coming to Las Vegas and it’s expanding its footprint in the Seattle metro area. Read more. 
  6. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the agency’s proposal to use E-Rate funding for WiFi hotspots is part of its responsibility to ensure universal services evolve with the changing educational and digital landscape. Last November, the FCC proposed providing eligible schools and libraries with E-Rate program funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless internet access services for student, staff, or patrons off-premises. The E-Rate program was established in 1996 to provide discounted rates on telecommunications and internet services for eligible educational institutions. Rosenworcel makes a case for the FCC’s authority, saying Congress gave the agency flexibility to adapt the E-Rate program to changing educational needs. Read more.

David Levine of UCL Swift headshot

Broadband Bytes is a regular feature by David Levine. David is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, a certified BICSI RCDD, and a 35-year industry veteran in fiber and copper solutions. He currently works as a Business Development Manager for UCL Swift.

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