The 2021 American Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has a stated goal of reaching 100% of US households with fast, affordable internet service. To many this means fibre for all.
Now a new cost estimation model from next-generation fixed wireless access (ngFWA) provider, Tarana Wireless highlights that, based on a study of 132 previous projects, a fibre-only approach to ensuring all un- or underserved households are connected could cost around five-times the $42.45 billion allocated to the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program (BEAD) – the broadband component of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The Tarana model sets out to recognise that whilst fibre broadband maybe an ideal outcome for all, it isn’t always cost-effective or fast to deploy, nor are costs always clear, which has serious implications for states abilities to deliver on their broadband plans.
The study behind the model is based on publicly available data from 132 projects funded by state broadband offices in Alabama, California, Michigan, Nebraska, and Virginia since early 2019. The projects were selected to give a cross section of household densities and terrain conditions and challenges across the US and averaged out at $13,900 per household, which would equate to over $200 billion to connect around 16 million households identified as un-or underserved by the FCC’s current broadband re-mapping.
Tarana highlighted this study as an indication that utilising multiple technologies — beyond just fibre — is essential to delivering on the US ambitions for a Connected America, with VP of Government Affairs, Carl Guardino, commenting that “A fiber-only diet isn’t healthy for people, and it’s equally unhealthy for fulfilment of America’s aspirations to provide universal access to high-capacity, reliable home broadband.”
Nextlink Internet who specialise in connecting rural communities are one of the companies who believe fixed wireless technologies have their place. Chief Strategy Officer, Claude Aiken, who spoke on a panel Is Fiber the Future at Connected America last month said “Fiber is a fantastic tool for connecting communities, but we need an all-of-the-above approach to get affordable broadband to everyone.”
Claude shared the limelight with Kimberly McKinley of UTOPIA Fiber, Allison Ellis of Frontier Communications and Katie Espeseth of the FBA. Tarana Wireless were sponsors of the event, which returns in 2024.