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Broadband Bytes, June Issue 1

This edition of Broadband Bytes includes ISP discount plans, USF instead of ACP?, ISP joins in training the next generation of techs, asset-backed securities/Frontier, AT&T Wins and losses: fiber satisfaction survey and carrier of last resort, rip-and-replace funds, NTCA BEAD tips, FCC LOC Review, Charter RDOF pull back, replacing copper with fiber and how one state approaches BEAD decision process.1. Internet providers agree to continue discounted plans through the end of 2024 as federal subsidies end. More than a dozen internet service providers have agreed to continue offering discounted internet plans to low-income households through the end of 2024, as the federal program subsidizing the discounts comes to an end. AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Spectrum, Verizon and nine other providers will continue offering their $30 or less plans to those currently enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and other eligible households. Other participating providers include Allo Fiber, Altafiber (and Hawaiian Telcom), Astound Broadband, IdeaTek, Mediacom, MLGC, Optimum, Starry and Vermont Telephone Company. Read more.2. Could the ACP push the Feds to resolve festering USF issues? For years, the federal government has avoided any attempt to resolve a long-standing problem: how to sustain funding for the Universal Service program. But perhaps that could change now that the lack of funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has gained substantial mindshare with the American public. Some stakeholders believe both problems can be solved by funding the ACP through the Universal Service Fund (USF) and expanding the types of entities that are required to pay to support the program. Read more.3. ISP in Washington is assisting a nearby technical school to cultivate the next generation of fiber-optic technicians. As officials in Washington prepare to utilize more than $1.2 billion awarded to the state by the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (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. 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. 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. Read more.“Among fiber-only providers, AT&T Fiber topped the customer satisfaction ranking for the second year in a row with an ACSI score of 80.”4. Frontier Communications said it has garnered an additional $750 million in asset-backed security (ASB) funding. ABS is a type of financial investment that uses income-generating assets as collateral and is an alternative to other ways of raising capital. The notes will be secured by certain of Frontier’s fiber assets and associated customer contracts in North Texas. The company is leading the charge on ABS funding. Last August, it inked a $2.1 billion ABS deal, making it the first public company in the U.S. to secure funds backed by its FTTH assets. Earlier this year, the analysts at TD Cowen wrote that “FTTH ABS has been a game changer for Frontier and Ting, creating a new source of capital to help fund their builds.” Read more.5. AT&T Win. AT&T retained its top spot in ACSI’s fiber customer satisfaction ranking. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) just released its annual Telecommunications Study, which provides a snapshot of how consumers perceive the big-name ISPs. Among fiber-only providers, AT&T Fiber topped the customer satisfaction ranking for the second year in a row with an ACSI score of 80. Following AT&T was “all others” (77), which ACSI indicated is a smaller group of fiber ISPs, Verizon Fios (77) and Lumen’s CenturyLink Fiber (76). AT&T’s placement wasn’t too surprising, according to ACSI Research Director Forrest Morgeson, as the company “continue[d] to score well in most individual aspects of fiber ISP satisfaction.” The operator in 2023 grew its fiber base by 1.1 million net adds. Read more.6. AT&T Loss. A judge at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) rejected a petition by AT&T to walk away from its carrier of last resort obligations for voice service. In the petition in California, AT&T requested to be relieved of the carrier of last resort obligations, which would give it the ability to stop providing telephone service in rural areas. The judge rejected the AT&T petition. He ruled that he was unable to ignore the existing California rules that require carrier of last resort.He also ruled against the AT&T claim that California rules would require AT&T to keep copper. He noted that there is nothing in the California rules that would stop AT&T from decommissioning copper wires. The ruling notes that there is nothing in the California rules that would stop AT&T from replacing copper with fiber, wireless, or other technologies. The ruling says that AT&T is allowed to kill copper networks, but that carrier of last resort obligations require the company to provide an alternative technology that can bring service to households. Read more.“NTCA’s 3rd recommendation was to use the most future-proof technology possible. Although the association did not use the word ‘fiber,’ that is clearly what it had in mind.”7. Summit Ridge Announces $500 Million FCC Reimbursement. The money will reimburse ISPs affected by the FCC’s rip-and-replace program. Finance and business consulting firm Summit Ridge Group announced that it secured over $500 million in approved reimbursements for its clients through various FCC programs. The rip-and-replace program requires internet service providers to remove Chinese-manufactured equipment from their networks, specifically products from Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE, as the U.S. government has raised significant concerns about the potential for espionage and other malicious activities emanating from the Chinese government. Read more.8. NTCA Recommends Four Steps Toward Successful BEAD Projects. The Rural Broadband Association advises stakeholders to heed four recommendations regarding the $42.5 billion BEAD program. NTCA’s 1st recommendation advised providers to “monitor and participate in challenges.” The association also had some advice about the size of project areas that could apply to state broadband offices. Smaller, right-sized project areas target funds to the areas that most need them and will encourage program participation by those best able to serve them.  NTCA’s 3rd recommendation was to use the most future-proof technology possible. Although the association did not use the word “fiber,” that is clearly what it had in mind. NTCA’s 4th recommendation applies to legislators and advocates for not taxing broadband grants. Read more.9. FCC Looking to Alter LOC Financial Rules to Spur Rural Broadband. At issue is the FCC’s reliance on Weiss ratings to evaluate the safety and soundness of banks that have issued letters of credit to ISPs. Federal regulators are planning to review financial policies that could be hindering the rollout of broadband in rural America. At the same time, regulators want to be sure that a different approach will not expose taxpayers to losses. Read more.“The FCC voted unanimously to consider new rules sought by financial institutions and broadband Internet Service Providers that claimed current policy is frustrating the effort to close the digital divide.”10. Charter Communications is looking to hand back more than 1,400 more locations it had committed to serve as part of RDOF. The company says it has been unable to get the go-ahead from three tribal governments that oversee the locations themselves or necessary rights-of-way. Two tribes, Charter said, refused to grant the company access because they are pursuing fiber broadband projects owned directly by the Tribe or in partnership with local providers. The company is asking the FCC to waive any penalties for handing back the locations, since “Charter pursued the relevant rights-of-way in good faith, and no public interest would be served by penalizing Charter for stepping aside now.” Read more.11. FBA Quantifies Benefits of Replacing Copper with Fiber. The Fiber Broadband Association issued a new report analyzing the benefits of replacing copper with fiber. The report quantifies potential cost savings, which could be particularly useful for providers wanting to build a business case for the copper-to-fiber move. Read more.12. Insight on how one State Broadband Director will approach BEAD decision-making. Read more.    Broadband Bytes is a regular feature by David Levine of UCL Swift. 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.

Jun 20, 2024

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Broadband Bytes, May Issue 3

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 a 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.7. 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.8. 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.9. T-Mobile to buy most of US cellular for $4.4B  T-Mobile has agreed to buy substantially all of US cellular’s wireless operations for about $4.4 billion, including its 4 million wireless customers and certain spectrum assets. US cellular 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.”10. Related to above: T-Mobile’s planned $4.4 billion purchase of US cellular’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 US cellular 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.11. 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. 12. 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.    Broadband Bytes is a regular feature by David Levine of UCL Swift. 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.

Jun 20, 2024

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Broadband Bytes, May Issue 2

This edition of Broadband Bytes includes Private Equity Financing, a possible save for ACP, BEAD state plan approvals coming, Comcast Public/Private Partnerships, Tribal “enforceable commitments” impact on BEAD state maps, state legislation impact on BEAD, and the winning streaming app.1. WOW! received an unsolicited offer to be taken private by two private equity firms. The offer could foreshadow more consolidation in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cable ecosystem. The private equity companies DigitalBridge and Crestview submitted an unsolicited offer to purchase the cable company WideOpenWest (WOW!). The move is the latest by a PE firm to acquire broadband assets and could be a sign of more activity to come. The WOW! network passes nearly 2 million residential, business and wholesale consumers. It provides services in 16 markets, primarily in the Midwest and Southeast, including Michigan, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, including the new all-fiber networks in Central Florida and Greenville County, South Carolina. Read more.2. TDS is getting $375 million in debt financing from Oaktree Capital Management to fund its fiber expansion. The fresh capital comes as TDS reached more than 100K residential broadband connections in expansion markets in Q1. The company is on track to reach 125K new fiber passings in 2024. The transaction is structured as a five-year loan, which the company can repay at any time. Read more.“If passed, the amendment would reduce ACP eligibility by income from 200% of the federal poverty line to 135%, which is the eligibility threshold for the FCC’s Lifeline program.”3. Congress tries desperate save for Affordable Connectivity Program. Senators introduced an amendment to the FAA reauthorization that would give the ACP an additional $6 billion. The FAA amendment would allocate $6 billion in funding for the ACP – somewhat less than what Congress proposed for the $7 billion ACP Extension Act–as well as make a few tweaks to the program. If passed, the amendment would reduce ACP eligibility by income from 200% of the federal poverty line to 135%, which is the eligibility threshold for the FCC’s Lifeline program. Read more.Update May 10: A last-minute effort to save the ACP has failed, along with an effort to make funding available for the Huawei “rip and replace” program, according to news reports. A proposed amendment to a bill to reauthorize the FAA included provisions that would have made funding available for the ACP and the Huawei “rip and replace” program. But as the New York Times reports, the bill has now passed the Senate without amendments. Read more. 4. More ACP impact. Legislation in Pennsylvania could create ACP-like program if passed. A proposed bill in Pennsylvania, H.B. 2195, would give eligible households a $30 monthly subsidy for internet if approved by lawmakers. The bill is listed as currently being considered by the state’s Consumer Protection, Technology & Utilities committee, according to the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s website. Read more. “For years cable operators such as Comcast, Charter and Cox have fought hard against municipal broadband projects, saying that it’s wrong for taxpayer dollars to compete against their private investments. But now, the competitive landscape is shifting.”5. Commerce Department is Aiming to Approve All BEAD Plans by Fall. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said (on 5/8/24) that she is looking to have all state plans for the $42.5-billion BEAD program approved by this fall. She also said to look for more approvals in the coming weeks. With full approvals in hand, states will have one year to field grant applications and award funds before getting final approval from the NTIA. Read more.6. Comcast partnered with a Virginia county to deploy broadband to unserved locations. The project received $3.4 million in ARPA funds. The company says it’s involved in public-private partnerships across its footprint. For years cable operators such as Comcast, Charter and Cox have fought hard against municipal broadband projects, saying that it’s wrong for taxpayer dollars to compete against their private investments. But now, the competitive landscape is shifting. There is a lot of taxpayer money available through government programs such as ARPA and most significantly through the BEAD program. Read more.7. Tribes Likely Have to Challenge RDOF And Other “Enforceable Commitments” on State BEAD Maps. (This is a rather lengthy but interesting article of enforceable commitments on tribal lands and the challenge process where programs like RDOF and BEAD intersect.) When issuing its BEAD guidance, the NTIA determined that federal and state grant funding for buildout on Tribal lands – like RDOF – that do not carry Tribal Government Resolutions of consent are not considered to be enforceable commitments.Without formal Tribal consent in the form of a legally binding agreement, which includes a Tribal Government Resolution, funding programs like RDOF should have no bearing on the BEAD eligibility of locations on Tribal lands. As long as they are not currently receiving service from a provider, these locations should remain BEAD-eligible. All of this means that BEAD offers a way around some funding barriers that would normally be in effect due to programs like RDOF, but that Tribes will have to be vigilant in checking on each state’s individual challenge process. Read more.8. Minnesota ISPs warn new legislation may stall $651M BEAD plan. Minnesota ISPs are protesting new legislation that includes labor provisions about prevailing wages and certification programs. ISPs warned that the legislation could stall broadband expansion efforts through the BEAD program.  Specifically, they are calling on legislators to remove Article 10 from the larger House Labor Omnibus bill (HF 5242), which includes new labor-related rules, including prevailing wage. The conflict unfolding in Minnesota serves as an example of the significant influence states wield in shaping the broadband landscape, both at the local and federal levels. Read more.“Over eight hundred rural Americans responded to their streaming service preferences in the annual rural video study…”9. The U.S. House voted 374-36 late May 15th to reauthorize the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), aiming to modernize its functions to support the administration’s new mission to provide affordable, reliable high-speed internet access to all U.S. households. This reauthorization, the first in over 30 years, came about due to the dramatic evolution of the NTIA since its last authorization in 1992. The bill passed the House under a suspension of the rules, a procedure that allows for less controversial measures to got to House floor. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, had pushed for a floor vote on Tuesday. Congress mandated NTIA to connect every American to affordable, high-speed internet under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, along with providing funding to get the job done. Read more. 10. This is from a survey of only 800 rural users, but the winner is: Over eight hundred rural Americans responded to their streaming service preferences in the annual rural video study which shows a continued fragmentation of the streaming market. Read more.    Broadband Bytes is a regular feature by David Levine of UCL Swift. 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.

Jun 20, 2024

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Broadband Bytes, May Issue 1

This edition notes the nexus of politics and broadband, including Net Neutrality—will SCOTUS rule?, The Politics of ACP, NY mandates low-income $15/month internet service, Altice surrenders more RODF, Acquisition and JV news, Fact Sheet on Municipal Broadband Growth, Nokia OLT BEAD production in WI, BEAD News and Initial Proposal Progress Dashboard.1. The FCC voted 4/25/24 to classify broadband services as a Title II telecommunications service, restoring net neutrality. A long-anticipated vote to restore net neutrality has forbidden internet service providers from blocking, throttling, or engaging in paid prioritization of lawful content. The vote reclassified broadband as a common carrier service, and subjected broadband service to regulatory oversight regarding consumer pricing. Read more.2. But will the US Supreme Court rule otherwise? The FCC’s new net neutrality rules likely have a rendezvous with the U.S. Supreme Court. A trip to the Supreme Court would not be unprecedented, seeing as the nine Justices decided a major net neutrality-related case involving cable broadband providers in 2005. The judicial scenario suggested isn’t inevitable. Congress could pass a new law, taking the issue from the FCC, and a Republican-controlled FCC could take power and gut the net neutrality rules adopted under FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. While Rosenworcel is highly confident in the lawfulness of her Internet rulebook, her agency will face an uphill battle to win five votes on a conservative-controlled Court that favors placing new limits on the reach of administrative state actors like the FCC. Read more.3. On the final day that full program benefits are offered under the Affordable Connectivity Program, officials in Washington rallied April 30th to emphasize the grave repercussions of the program’s imminent end. The internet subsidy program, which has been providing low or no-cost internet to 23 million American households for roughly two years now, was hailed by officials for addressing long-neglected affordability barriers that prevent some people from accessing the internet. One in six U.S. households has utilized the program since its inception. Of these, nearly half are military families. Over half are above age 50, and four million are seniors living on a fixed income. The program has bipartisan support among voters, and urban-rural backing. However, starting May 1st enrolled households will only receive a partial credit towards their monthly internet costs through May. In a month, these families will have to notify their provider on whether they are able to afford to continue their internet subscription or are opting to face disconnection. Altice USA, the third-largest cable ISP in the country, informed federal regulators on 4/19/24 that it intends to surrender broadband subsidy grants in three states, saying its decision would allow affected locations to become eligible for funding in other broadband support programs. Read more.4. With ACP gone, what impact will a new NY law have on other states? New York $15 Internet Mandate Has Providers Worried. Associations representing large and small broadband providers are presenting a united front in opposition to New York’s requirement that providers offer low-income internet service for $15 a month. …they are “disappointed” by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold New York’s mandatory $15-a-month offering. The associations said the mandate is rate regulation and implied that it isn’t needed because the industry is competitive. Read more.5. Altice USA to surrender RDOF Awards in three more states. Altice USA, the third-largest cable ISP in the country, informed federal regulators on 4/19/24 that it intends to surrender broadband subsidy grants in three states, saying its decision would allow affected locations to become eligible for funding in other broadband support programs. Altice told the FCC that it was giving up locations won in the RDOF reverse auction in 2020. The company listed 22 census block groups (CBGs) in all, including 12 in Kentucky, nine in Arkansas, and one in West Virginia. In March Altice relinquished RDOF awards in 18 CBGs in Louisiana, bringing to four the number of states in which the company has decided to give up broadband deployment subsidy projects. Read more. 6. Grain Management LLC has agreed to acquire a majority interest in 123NET, a fiber Internet, colocation, and business voice provider that serves Michigan. 123NET’s management team will remain in place and hold “a meaningful” ownership position, the companies said. Grain Management has emerged as a fiber network consolidator in recent years. Among its acquisitions: Last April the company acquired Quintillion, a provider of connectivity in the American Arctic. In May 2021, it acquired Tachus LLC, a fiber broadband provider in Texas. Read more.According to Nokia, its OLTs and ONTs already power 70% of fiber broadband lines in North America.7. T-Mobile, EQT unveils fiber Joint Venture, with plans to acquire Lumos. T-Mobile and investment firm EQT announce joint venture to expand the carrier’s fiber broadband footprint. As part of the deal, the companies will acquire Mid-Atlantic FTTH provider Lumos. T-Mobile will invest an initial $950M in the JV, plus another $500M sometime between 2027-28. T-Mobile and EQT’s transaction is expected to close in late 2024 or early 2025, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. Once the deal closes, T-Mobile plans to invest $950 million in the JV to acquire a 50% equity stake as well as all of Lumos’ existing fiber customers. Read more.8. As the municipal broadband movement continues to gain momentum, Community Networks created a new fact sheet to highlight the dramatic surge in the number of communities building publicly owned, locally controlled high-speed Internet infrastructure over the last three years. In January, they announced an updated tally of municipal broadband networks across the U.S., which showed that between January 2021 and January 2024 at least 47 new municipal networks had been lit up for service. Read more.Learn more about the dramatic surge in the number of communities building publicly owned, locally controlled high-speed Internet infrastructure over the last three years in the Rising Tide of Municipal Broadband Fact Sheet.9. And in Wisconsin news: With their first pick in the 2024 NFL draft the Green Bay Packers select Jordon Morgan, OT Arizona. Protect that young QB! As for industry-related Wisconsin news: Nokia makes its first Buy America products at a Wisconsin factory. Nokia’s new manufacturing plant in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, is now open and producing optical line terminals (OLTs) and optical network terminals (ONTs). Nokia is working with the manufacturer Sanmina to produce the products after the NTIA determined that OLTs and ONTs must be made in America to qualify for use in BEAD fiber projects. According to Nokia, its OLTs and ONTs already power 70% of fiber broadband lines in North America. Read more.10. More States Gain Full Approval of BEAD Proposals: $2 Billion in Funding Coming Their Way. Initial Proposals, including both Volumes 1 and 2, in the BEAD program from Kansas, Nevada and West Virginia have been approved, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The three states can now request access to funding and begin implementing the program. Kansas was authorized to receive $451.7 million, while Nevada will get $416.6 million and West Virginia will get $1.2 billion. The FCC has asked the US units of Chinese carriers, China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile to discontinue offering fixed or mobile broadband internet operations in the country.11. ​This dashboard allows anyone to track how BEAD Eligible Entities are progressing through the major milestones* necessary to earn NTIA approval of their Initial Proposal. FCC bars Chinese carriers from offering broadband services in US. The FCC has asked the US units of Chinese carriers, China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile to discontinue offering fixed or mobile broadband internet operations in the country. The service providers would be required to stop offering services within 60 days of the order being passed on April 25, 2024. The new order will also impact Pacific Networks and its wholly-owned subsidiary, ComNet. Read more.    Broadband Bytes is a regular feature by David Levine of UCL Swift. 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.

May 15, 2024

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UCL Swift Spring 2024 Quarterly Newsletter

In the fiber-optics industry, in-person relationships made at trade shows can be the difference in a customer choosing your product over your competitor’s. Engaging with the people behind the products is crucial, and being able to meet our partners and customers in person is part of what makes trade shows so impactful.This year, UCL Swift plans to increase our market reach even further by focusing on our attendance at trade shows and conferences across the country. Trade shows are critical to increasing product awareness, making real-time connections and being part of important industry dialogues.In 2024, UCL Swift will be building real-life relationships at these shows:1. Orlando, Florida: platinum sponsorship of BICSI’s Winter Conference (occurred January 2024)2. Dallas, Texas: platinum sponsorship of Connected America 2024 (occurred March 2024)3. Nashville, Tennessee: Fiber Connect4. Dallas, Texas: ISE Expo5. Las Vegas, Nevada: BICSI Fall Conference6. Atlanta, Georgia: SCTE TechExpo We hope to see you at one (or more!) of these shows this year.We’re more than just splicers. While UCL Swift is known for our one-of-a-kind All-In-One fiber optic splicer, our robust product suite is here to support all of your fiber optic needs. Want to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in the fiber optic industry? Introducing “Broadband Bytes: The Latest in Fiber Optic Industry News” written by David Levine of UCL Swift.  David regularly reviews dozens of recent news articles and distills the most important information into one convenient post. He adds insights and includes the original article’s link. UCL Swift prides itself on being an industry leader, and we hope these bytes will be a useful resource for all those who wish for an easy way to stay informed.We introduced David in our last newsletter, but in case you missed it—he’s 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. We’re thrilled to have his expertise and experience and look forward to his perspectives on today’s fiber optic industry.Click here to have Broadband Bytes delivered straight to your inbox as soon as it’s published.UCL Swift products in action.Check out these awesome photos customers have shared of our UCL Swift products in the field! All credit goes to the creators whose handles are in the caption. Do you have photos of yourself using UCL Swift products on the job? We’d love to see them. Tag us on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn and use the hashtag #uclswiftinaction.Leave us a Google Review.UCL Swift thanks our customers for their continued loyalty over the years. We appreciate the word-of-mouth referrals we know you’ve given us. You can help even more people learn about our products when you drop us a quick 5-star Google Review. Let everyone know how reliable your UCL Swift splicer is! Click the button. It’s quick, easy, and means a lot to us.Click here to leave us a Google review.

May 14, 2024

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Broadband Bytes, April Issue

This edition of Broadband Bytes includes ReConnect Program Rd 5, the new NTIA Permitting tool, RDOF default and penalty debate, loss of ACP and impact on BEAD, $811M in Digital Equity Funds and municipal drive for competition.1. USDA has begun accepting applications for $700 million in funding in round five of the ReConnect program, which covers some of the costs of high-speed broadband deployments in rural areas where service is not available. Eligible applicants have until May 21 to apply. The original deadline of April 22 was extended. Read more.2. NTIA launched a public permitting tool to help ISPs identify the permits they will need. The agency unveiled a new, publicly available permitting tool to help federal broadband grant recipients and subgrantees identify and understand the types of permits they’ll need and avoid potential environmental impacts. Dubbed the NTIA Permitting and Environmental Information Application, the tool is a map that combines public federal maps from agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and other sources. Read more. 3. As the FCC considers pleas for more lenient RDOF fines, electric co-ops are saying it is time for defaulters to own up.  Last month a coalition of ISPs, unions and local officials penned a letter to the FCC appealing for a brief amnesty period, during which defaulting companies could surrender their contracts with reduced penalties. Mostly, they warned that locations covered by RDOF awards are ineligible for grants through the BEAD program. In a letter to the FCC, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), which represents nearly 900 rural electric co-ops, said the time for amnesty to have a positive effect on BEAD has passed, because most states’ Volume One plans for the BEAD program have already been approved by NTIA, and over half have begun or completed their challenge process to determine location eligibility. Read more.4. Service providers should not let reporting requirements or a requirement to offer low-cost service stop them from applying for BEAD funding, said Evan Feinman, BEAD program director for NTIA. The requirement to offer a low-cost service has become a big concern as funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is set to run out. Many providers had seen the FCC $30-a-month ACP benefit for low-income customers as a means of meeting that requirement. Without the ACP, some providers might be reluctant to participate in the BEAD program.  As Feinman explained, individual states will set their own low-cost program requirements within guidelines set by NTIA. Some states are saying that providers have to offer a $30-a-month service, he noted. But if a service provider says the economics do not work, the state can issue waivers to allow prices up to $65 or $75 a month, he said. Read more.5. The FCC announced that the maximum benefit in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) for May for non-tribal areas will be no more than $14 unless Congress makes additional funding available for the program. That is a bit less than half the usual monthly amount of $30. The ACP program, launched in January 2022, is designed to make internet connectivity more affordable for low-income households by covering some of the costs for monthly broadband service.  The program will run out of funding in May, however, unless additional funding is made available. Congress appears unlikely to do that, as the legislators have not voted to allocate more funding, despite pleas from the FCC, consumer groups, President Biden, and others. Without the additional funding, the ACP will end in May, with no benefits paid beginning in June. Read more. 6. NTIA Gets Set to Release $811M to the States for Digital Equity. NTIA said that it will make $811 million available through the Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program. The agency also announced tentative allocations to each U.S. state through the program. The funding announced March 29th is the first tranche that NTIA will administer in the Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program. The program has a total budget of $1.44 billion. The total funding allocated to the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in this tranche is $760 million. An additional $8.4 million will go to American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with the funding divided equally among the four territories. In addition, $45 million is available to native entities. Receipt of funding is not automatic. Each state must apply for funding, following guidelines to be released March 29th. States will have until May 28 to apply. Read more.Read more : Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program Fact Sheet. 7. NTIA aims to streamline National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews for broadband projects via 30 new categorical exclusions. Categorical exclusions are actions that a federal agency has determined will not have a significant environmental impact, so they do not require an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement. Typically, broadband deployment projects have limited, if any, significant environmental impacts, according to NTIA. NTIA relied on 11 categorical exclusions that were established in 2009. Read more. 8. Net neutrality is happening whether broadband providers like it or not.  The FCC plans to publish its final proposed order for net neutrality April 4th. And then, the full FCC will vote on the order at its meeting on April 25, where it is expected to pass on a 3-2 partisan vote. At a high level, net neutrality means that the FCC is reclassifying broadband service providers as Title II carriers under the Communications Act. This will subject them to the same rules as telcos. Most controversially, the rules say that broadband providers cannot selectively block or throttle internet traffic or sell unreasonable paid prioritization. Read more. 9. Some Wireless Services Deemed ‘Underserved’ in 4 States, Expanding BEAD Locations. Vermont, Georgia, Missouri, and Nevada received Commerce Department approval to mark areas whose sole source of internet comes from cellular fixed wireless service as “underserved,” hence making these regions eligible for broadband infrastructure funding under the BEAD program.  Gaining approval of the NTIA, the four states’ broadband availability maps will now consider all locations served only by CFWA as “underserved.” Providers will be able to rebut the claims of underservice. In Georgia alone, the implementation of the cellular fixed wireless modification resulted in over 25,000 locations being reinstated on the state broadband map as eligible for BEAD funding. 10. The city of Joplin, Missouri, has taken broadband competitiveness into its own hands and has wooed ALLO Fiber to build a fiber network in the city that will compete against the long-time incumbent Cable One. This deal between Joplin and ALLO is a new animal. It is not by definition a municipal network. The network will be funded, built, and operated entirely by ALLO. The city is involved because it was fed up with what it considered sub-par internet for its residents, and it put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a fiber company to enter the market. Read more.      Broadband Bytes is a regular feature by David Levine of UCL Swift. 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.

May 14, 2024

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