Fiber-to-the-home is not the industry's only growth area; fiber to the business is also booming. The percentage of fiber-connected commercial buildings with 20 or more employees in the United States reached 49.6% in 2016, up almost 128% from 2004.
The US business community has come a long way, fiber-wise, and it's critical that we connect more of our country's businesses with fiber. And it's just in time. The fiber-to-business boom is being driven by changes in the way our companies work.
Everything's going digital
It's no secret fiber consistently provides faster download and upload speeds than other technologies. It's also more reliable: fiber optic cables maintain signal strength for longer and carry it further than other means of broadband access.
These high speeds and reliability are key as business becomes digital. In late 2017, Gartner released its business tech outlook for 2018. Many of those emerging trends have implications for business networks.
Take edge computing, for example. Gartner reported that while 10% of data is now produced far from the data center, by 2022 the amount will rise to 50%. This means companies will be using the Internet of Things and remote sensing to generate real-time analytics, and will need to receive and analyze that data far from headquarters. Edge computing is being used to solve this problem, but it requires high-speed data access to connect disparate cloud services and models and place the processing capabilities closer to connected objects.
Gartner also found that in 2017, 59% of companies were researching how fit artificial Intelligence into their operations. These applications use and move huge amounts of complex data to perform even more complex functions, in the blink of an eye. Fiber connections ensure the faithful, quick and reliable transmission of that data.
Other trends -- like the emerging industrial Internet of Things, public cloud computing and adaptive security -- all depend on the fast, reliable broadband access fiber provides, and companies will need to plan accordingly.
Fiber costs less
Fiber doesn't just offer businesses better connectivity than other technologies; it's also much cheaper, in terms of labor and materials. Instead of building two cabling structures -- one copper and one coaxial -- with fiber, only one network is needed to handle varying business needs, from TV and voice to data. Fiber networks also do not demand the regular expensive upgrades that other technologies do -- copper, for example, has made six major changes to its cabling since the 1990s alone -- so companies with fiber can avoid these expensive recurring costs down the line.
Fiber is an asset for employees
Fiber isn't just important to businesses: it's also important to employees. RVA, LLC data shows high-speed Internet is a factor for 91% of people deciding which in which community to live. According to Global Workplace Analytics, half the US workforce also telecommutes at least part of the time; a quarter of us do so frequently. Businesses that can support telecommuting mainstays such as video conferencing can better attract and retain competitive talent.
It's no wonder, then, that corporate giants like Amazon are interested in fiber. Last year, Amazon listed fiber in its Hq2 Request for Proposal (RFP) among the many siting requirement for its second headquarters.
"Ensuring optimal fiber connectivity is paramount at our Hq2 location," the RFP stated, before asking respondents to "Please demonstrate the fiber connectivity on all submitted sites."
We're thrilled the percentage of unconnected commercial buildings in our country dropped from nearly 90% in 2004 to 50.4% in 2016, and we look forward to it dropping further as more industries and business communities become aware of fiber's immense value.
Fiber is simply too good of a deal for American businesses to pass up.
— Heather Burnett Gold, President & CEO, Fiber Broadband Association. Follow her on Twitter @FiberMaven or @fiberbroadband.or stop by during Fiber Connect this June in Nashville.