Public FTTX Delivers Local Economic Growth, Digital Equity, and Long-term Benefits
Communities throughout the U.S. are currently receiving the first installments of $350 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding dedicated to pandemic recovery. Local governments within each state have substantial flexibility in using these funds to meet needs they prioritize.
There are limitless acceptable uses for the money, including supporting public health response to COVID-19; addressing negative economic impacts from the pandemic; investing in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure; and replacing lost revenue. Many communities have formed planning groups to determine the best use of available funds.
One ARPA-approved investment with dramatic, long-term benefits is building infrastructure for fiber broadband to create digital equity. Publicly owned FTTX networks make reliable, affordable high-speed internet access universally available to every home and business in a community regardless of geographic location, socioeconomic status, and other limiting factors.
Under the initial guidelines, ARPA funds are eligible for use in unserved or underserved communities that lack access to at least 25/3 Mbps wireline service. The latest guidance for the Coronavirus Capital Projects Funds further stipulates, “RDOF-awarded areas are eligible if the service being provided is not affordable or at or above 100/20.”
Even under the expanded guidance, not one state in New England meets the threshold of having universal access to high-speed broadband. Even in urban areas considered to be nearly 100% connected, equal access is not available to everyone, leaving many residents and businesses struggling with DSL and underperforming, expensive cable connections.
Broadband access will remain inequitably distributed as long as private telecommunication providers can target densely populated, high-income areas for network buildout and fiber deployment while neglecting low density, low income, or remote areas. For-profit entities overlook these communities – even when they are in close proximity to a fiber backbone – because they are not profitable enough.
Harvard studies have shown that municipally-owned networks routinely provide faster, cheaper service than for-profit, monopoly ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, Charter, and Verizon. Revenues generated from local networks stay in the local community, and local ownership means more control, accountability, and better service.
The ROI of Municipally-Owned FTTX
Through the Capital Projects Fund, ARPA grants are designed to help local governments address challenges revealed during the pandemic. Especially in rural America and low- to moderate-income communities, these funds can help municipalities ensure that all residents and businesses have equal access to the high-quality, high speed infrastructure needed to grow and thrive. The availability of ARPA funds means all communities can choose to build broadband infrastructure as an investment in their future growth, equity, and prosperity.
Communities that build and operate fiber networks enjoy:
- Lower subscriber costs and more bandwidth,
- High quality, reliable internet service,
- Universal access,
- Community control over pricing and operational concerns,
- Economic growth and job creation,
- Enhanced property values and increased tax revenues,
- Access to telehealthcare,
- Improved community services, including public safety and education.
Capital projects take time to plan and budget, and the deadline for municipalities to obligate ARPA funds is December 31, 2024. As a municipal partner, Sertex can help local leaders considering municipal broadband projects prepare by estimating deployment costs and gathering data to assess needs and determine viability.
Towns with a Fiber Interest Zone on our SertexConnect platform can deploy community broadband surveys to begin collecting vital information quickly and easily, including speed tests to demonstrate underperforming service areas. Surveys can be conducted over extended periods from six to 12 months with periodic reporting to inform capital planning and engage grassroots champions.
Want to know more? Contact Mike Solitro to request a demonstration.