FIBER BROADBAND ASSOCIATION: EDUCATION, RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY
In this episode of The Broadband Bunch, we speak with Fiber Broadband Association President, Lisa Youngers.
Lisa shares how the Fiber Broadband Association engages with the FCC, state and federal policymakers as well as communities across the U.S. She introduces a new measure of broadband, The Broadband Experience Index and shares findings from recent broadband research. Lisa also tells us about her passion to sponsor and support women in the fiber industry
ABOUT THE FIBER BROADBAND ASSOCIATION
Lisa Youngers: The Fiber Broadband Association is a member association, the only one in the America dedicated to the acceleration and deployment of all fiber networks. And we’re the voice for Ultra-high-speed wireline broadband deployment. We also have a Latin American chapter of Fiber Broadband Association LATAM, and we have a Fiber Optic Sensing Association affiliate. Fiber optic sensing of course is using the fiber optics technology and a lot of interesting security and monitoring applications such as border safety, pipeline safety, et cetera. It’s a very interesting component of fiber optic technology. So we have that affiliate and chapter. We’re also a part of a Global Alliance with Fiber to the Home Council. And we work with the Global Alliance on issues we have in common – Fiber to the Home Middle East North Africa, Fiber to the Home Europe, Fiber to the Home Asia-PAC and FTTX Council Sub-Saharan Africa. And then of course Fiber Broadband Association in Latin America.
We work with global partners on deploying fiber networks around the world. The Fiber Broadband Association is made up of about 250 members and we have everyone represented in the fiber verse, so I like to call it, we have service providers large and small, manufacturers of fiber optic cable, vendors of all sorts and types, construction firms, engineering firms, municipal networks, electric co-ops and power companies getting into fiber broadband networks. We represent everybody in the fiber space and allow a place for everyone to come together to connect, to bring education about fiber to policymakers, to network, and then to advocate for what our companies need to ensure the deployment of all fiber networks. And we also hold educational workshops on how to build fiber network and then a big annual conference where we bring a lot of people together to talk about fiber networks.
THE FIBER BROADBAND ASSOCIATION AND THE FCC
Lisa Youngers: We participate in FCC proceedings that arise that we have member interest in, and we do try to play into other written comments or advocating and lobbying at the FCC. We also try to be at the table and in a lot of discussions, and I think you’ve probably talk about some of these topics, what we want to make sure we’re visible and we’re heard representing the fiber point of view and fiber is important infrastructure. The fourth utility some people call it and you will probably get to these topics, but you can’t have wireless or 5G or smart cities or internet of things applications. And there are many without fiber being the underlying important infrastructure to support those things. Our role with the FCC could be in a lobbying or an education role. Sometimes we just answer questions about fiber networks.
YOU CAN’T HAVE 5G WITHOUT FIBER
Lisa Youngers: We’re still impressing upon people that you need fiber to make those things work. I think in some sense they do understand it. I think there’s more work to do there. So we try to stay visible and make sure we impress that upon them. Recently, The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about 5G and they said, I’m paraphrasing, that 5G is great and then we won’t need all this fiber optics.
We wrote a response to that and we said, you can’t have 5G without fiber. And I think importantly it is great to be at the table and we get asked to be there and speak for fiber, but I will tell you when I’m in a room. So for example, I was at a smart cities event recently and I was on a panel with 5G experts, smart city experts in-building, and DAS networks experts, building safety experts. And when I just say all of these applications and 5G and the next iteration of wireless are great, but they will all need fiber there is nothing but head nodding and complete agreement from all the experts in the room from all the different segments of the industry. So it is known by the experts in the industry, but it is… There’s certainly work to do to still make… Impress that upon the policymakers. Yeah. You have to consider the fiber.
Pete Pizzutillo: I wonder how much 5G hype has obscured the view in terms of what the actual technologies are? To your point, if you’re going to a small cell architecture, you need fiber for the backhaul. All these things are out there and a lot of the fiber that utilities have already laid out for metering and sensing already is still the fundamental foundation.
Lisa Youngers: I mean that’s exactly right. For 5G as you’re in the upper millimeter-wave band and you need small cells and those antennae become… They propagate shorter distances. You need more antennas connected by greater or by shorter distances. You need more and more fiber for as you said for the backhaul, for the front-haul, the mid-haul to support the… that small cell architecture. So that all demands fiber… You also mentioned in addition… just to be a smart city, there’s a great example, which I’ll just spend two seconds on famously and I’m sure you remember in 2008 Philadelphia was leading in the way they were going to provide for the first time ever free citywide Wi-Fi for all of their residents, it got a lot of press, a lot of attention. People loved this free citywide Wi-Fi is a great thing.
They tried to roll it out ultimately it failed. And in all of the material, we read about the citywide Wi-Fi efforts in Philadelphia and why it’s failed, one of the common themes in sort of that analysis was they didn’t have enough fiber, they didn’t have enough underlying fiber to support a citywide WiFi network. Just the basic underlying infrastructure. To your point, these things do demand the fiber and we try to keep making that point.
THE BROADBAND EXPERIENCE INDEX
Lisa Youngers: Mike Render, of RVA LLC, has done a few things for us. Every year he gives us the numbers about fiber deployment overall in North America.. And I will say we’re going to see 2019 numbers soon. But for 2018 across the US we saw 17% growth in fiber to the home in the US and we saw a 22% growth in fiber to the home in North America just in 2018 and we’ll see the 2019 numbers shortly. Mike also looked at the availability of fiber and what and how that impacts home value as well as MDU value whether it’s owned or rented. And for home prices where fiber is available, we saw a 3.2% increase in home value, for MDU where someone owns, we saw a 2.8% increase in value, and in the MDU rental scenario, we saw an 8% increase in the value of that rental where fiber is available.
We see a correlation, a direct correlation between the availability of fiber broadband and on-home rental or ownership scenarios. So we definitely see a positive increase there. Mike also did a study for us called the Broadband Experience Index and we have filed that at the FCC. So you asked us how we interact with the FCC in addition to filing comments. We’ve also provided studies – real data that they can rely on and their decision-making. And Mike did something for us called the Broadband Experience Index and that’s where we provided an index that looks at a way to evaluate broadband the consumer is getting on more than just download speed. Right now, the FCC relies on download speed and they’re even doing (in dockets that we’re filing on today) they use download speed as a differentiator on the broadband that a consumer is getting.
And we looked at it and through data we were able to collect and data that is readily available as well as some consumer surveys. We determined the consumers look at a lot more than download speed. They also look at reliability, [and] latency. Latency is so important for many applications and it’ll become increasingly important as we move to more Internet of Things applications and 5G applications in the future. The Broadband Experience Index looks at those three things and evaluates them across all access technologies, whether it’s Fiber to the Home or Fixed Wireless or DSL or cable, et cetera and satellites. And took those three important factors, reliability, latency, and then speed, and determined what was the best experience for the consumer based on all the information we collected. We determined that fiber is providing the best in class experience to the consumer.
We encourage the FCC to adopt this more complete Broadband Experience Index as a measure of broadband rather than just download speed. That’s not enough. People need the reliability that they know it works and that it’s going to be on when they need it. And then they need to worry about latency because that goes to the performance and their ability to use their broadband for the things they may need to do for either work, home life, homework, or just basic living things that you would go to broadband for. So we have encouraged the Broadband Experience Index to be adopted.
Pete Pizzutillo: The FCC definition of high-speed broadband is based on upload and download speed and you’re asking for them to adopt more of a robust, user-centric definition.