Read below as our VP Engineering, Leigh Maidment gives his thoughts on his time spent at the Broadband Communities Summit 2023.
This year, the Broadband Communities Summit (BBC) was held in the beautiful Woodlands district outside Houston, Texas. For those not aware, this conference is primarily aimed at bringing together broadband systems operators of all stripes, including for example: private telcos, CLECs, ILECs, Cable Operators, Wireless Broadband Operators, Property Managers, Developers, Owners, REITs, Universities, Colleges and many more.
The conference session content was aimed at providing information to those operators on a diverse range of topics such as:
How to access funding
Case studies of successful broadband deployments
Lessons learned from the field
All in all, the conference was well attended, indicative of the frenzy of activity across the broadband market at the moment. A common theme running throughout the conference presentations was the opportunities arising as a result of federal government funding programs – in particular the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. There are some significant milestones coming up in relation to this program, most notably in June the states will be notified of their total funding allocations. By the year's end, Initial Proposals from each state are due, triggering (once approved) the first release of funds shortly thereafter.
An interesting panel consisted of representatives from 4 government agencies: Federal Communications Commission (FCC), US Department of Commerce, US Department of the Treasury and Rural Utilities Service (RUS) who collectively have over $100B of funds available to promote broadband development and adoption across the United States and its territories. It was pleasing to hear that they are acutely aware and focused on coordinating their respective programs to ensure that the funds dispersed achieve their aims efficiently. On 18th May (ie: next week) a new map will be released that will show an aggregated view of all federal grant programs that are active across the US.
A second panel of interest consisted of representatives from CostQuest Associates, Hexvarium, Lightbox, and Ready.net who discussed the finer points of the FCC’s mapping fabric; how it was generated, how it is being continually improved, and how it is being used in practice. Biarri Networks is a company at the forefront of geospatial, algorithmic design methods and it was somewhat validating to hear others in the industry highlight their own technical difficulties in collecting and cleaning vast data sets; in this case, customer locations. Biarri Networks have a deep understanding and a broad range of tools and automated solutions that are tailored to address the complexity that comes with processing geospatial data.
On a final note, the conference format was quite different from the usual in that the exhibition floor was open only for a couple of hours in the evening at the completion of the speaking schedule. General sentiment amongst those to whom I spoke was that this was a bit restrictive, but I suppose it is always worth trying something new!