A map last updated in June 2014 is the most recent pictorial representation from the Federal Communications Commission of where the nation's fiber cable is deployed. Not only is it out of date, it's inaccurate, and that could be preventing regions from getting funding for high-speed broadband, the president of the Fiber Broadband Association says.
"We've seen a lot of concerns over the mapping," said Heather Burnett Gold, president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association, in an interview with UBB2020. "Entities have come in and said an area is served when, in fact, it's not -- garbage in, garbage out on the data. There has been a lot of concern over the mapping accuracy."
This lack of insight comes at a time when the US needs millions of miles of fiber for 5G alone. The nation must deploy at least 1.4 million miles of additional fiber optic cable to the top 25 major metropolitan areas for 5G to live up to its much-touted promises, a new report by the Fiber Broadband Association predicts.
In its whitepaper, "The Road to 5G is Paved with Fiber," the organization posits it takes about eight miles of fiber per square mile to connect the many densified small cells required for 5G. The top 25 metro regions in the US total 173,852 square miles, according to the organization, totaling 1,390,816 miles of fiber cable.
This doesn't take into account the country's many other cities, towns and suburbs, as well as the vast swathes of rural regions that still require fiber, said Burnett Gold. (See Fiber Champion Heather Burnett Gold to Retire.)
"It's a big problem because we need to make sure companies that are providing services in those rural areas are deploying more fiber. Whether 5G will be an answer in a rural area, I don't know -- maybe in county seats -- because cell towers have to be so close together to be effective," she said, noting that uses such as Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for agriculture, government and tourism could generate demand and a business plan for investment and ROI. "But all communities need more fiber and cracking that rural nut is imperative to making sure we don't have any haves and have nots."
Potential taxpayer investment faces a hurdle: No current map shows fiber deployment across the country. The Federal Communications Commission stopped posting the National Broadband Map in June 2014 because of a "lack of funds."
"It is important because it says where there are areas that are eligible for funding, so if the map's not accurate, we may miss areas or think that areas are served [that] in fact aren't," Burnett Gold said. "That is something that needs to be addressed. I'm not sure where we get the movement to address that, though."
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.