One of the greatest legacies our generation will leave in the telecom industry is the realization of the 4th utility. As we work to bring broadband internet access to every citizen, we’re following a digital version of the footsteps of our greatest generation took nearly a century ago under FDR’s Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

Nearly a century later, those same rural electric co-ops continue to reliably serve their members today.  That’s a tough act to follow, considering the efficacy of some of the early investments we’ve made into broadband going back to the restructuring of US federal subsidy from plain old telephone systems.

We’ve had a decade to experiment and iterate. Now the demand seems almost inelastic as our need for broadband connectivity deepens with emerging use cases and Moore’s law marches on.  Before our eyes, broadband connectivity has become the fourth utility.  The pandemic created urgency and the mission remains the same: broadband for all.

Our success will be measured by the quality and sustainability of the services and business models behind each local government, electric co-op and regional service provider who takes up this challenge of bridging the digital divide.

Broadband expansion efficacy comes in four parts:

1. Collaboration

  • No one entity can solve the challenges relating to the broadband shortage.
  • At Ciena, we don’t just sell technology – we’re working with state broadband offices, local governments, and various clients to create a coalition that can get things done and have an impact by working together.
  • Some of the most successful projects are happening as a result of an ecosystem or a peer group including a municipality, co-op, ISP/RSP, WISP, MNO(s), community stakeholders and consultants – by coming together groups can conceptualize, build, fund, and market a network that scales and stands the test of time.

2. Forward-thinking network planning

  • 100 Mb/s symmetric is becoming table stakes – and must be considered to avoid wasted cycles and budget.
  • Investing in a network technology that can scale to support 1 Gb/s symmetrical or more in the near future is paramount to protect the network operator’s investment.
  • Many entities have already deployed PON solutions – but with recent advances, you can get more efficient architectures with innovative technologies. It’s important to continually review what’s available and how a next-generation solution can improve your TCO, simplify operations and create a sustainable broadband network.
  • While it’s good to move through planning to the tactical phase, it’s equally important to ensure that the dollars being spent today will cover the needs of the market for the foreseeable future.

3. Go-to-market strategies

  • Monetization of your investment will ensure your business' longevity and success. Customers and prospects need to know about the solution your network drives and marketing your services is no small undertaking. It takes time and resources, which can be in short supply. The Ciena Partner Network Ecosystem’s Marketing as a Service supports our partners in communicating their services in their communities and extracting as much value as possible out of their network investment.

4. Long-term support from partners (not vendors)

  • Consultants and consortia are playing a key role in the success of broadband installations. Ensuring they have the support they need and the suite of solutions to recommend will be key to sustainable broadband expansions.
  • Leveraging technology partners effectively can be a future indicator of success. New technologies can enable an open, modular and scalable solutions to deliver more value. Designed to ignite a digital future for all, Ciena’s Residential Broadband Solution is field-proven across industries to deliver sustainable networks that continually adapt to business needs.

Today, there is an enormous opportunity when it comes to broadband expansion and making the most of the wealth of private, federal, state, and local funding. By working together for the benefit of municipalities, utility co-ops and RSP/ISPs, we can help deliver economic growth and sustainable business models for all.