Broadband Bites: California picks first projects for open-access network
Also in today's roundup: US broadband growth back to pre-pandemic levels; Nokia, Earthlink building broadband backbone in Iraq; Openreach passes 6 million with fiber; FCC proposes spectrum-sharing incentive program.
- California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the selection of 18 projects for a state-run open-access, middle-mile fiber network. The $3.25 billion open-access network is part of a larger $6 billion commitment the state made to broadband via legislation signed by the governor this summer. The build is being managed by the California Department of Technology, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Caltrans; with GoldenStateNet acting as third-party administrator. The first 18 projects announced this week span the entirety of the state. In a statement, Martha Guzman Aceves, commissioner at the CPUC said: "These initial routes have been identified to accelerate projects in areas of the state that are unserved because of the lack of open middle mile infrastructure to serve them. We are accelerating the selection of a diverse set of routes — those that are ready to build and those that are not ready to build. This allows the state to partner with locals on these diverse projects and learn by doing, as we concurrently work to finalize all the needed routes in the State. There are many more communities like those in Phase I that will be included in the final map." (See New California law reserves $3.25B for a state-run, open access network.)
California Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative Initial Projects
- Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) found that broadband growth in the US returned to pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter of 2021. According to LRG, the largest cable and wireline providers (representing 96% of the US ISP market) added 630,000 net broadband subscribers in Q3 2021, compared to 1,525,000 subscribers in Q3 2020, 615,000 in Q3 2019, and 600,000 in Q3 2018. When looking at the data by type of provider, the top wireline ISPs added about 40,000 total broadband subscribers in Q3 2021, versus 200,000 in Q3 2020. Telcos saw a net addition of 475,000 fiber subscribers, and a net loss of 435,000 non-fiber subscribers. (See Multiple forces fueling broadband's 'Great Deceleration' – analyst.)
- Nokia and Earthlink Telecom, an Iraq-based ISP, announced that they are partnering on an Iraqi National Backbone to serve broadband to 15 of the country's provinces. According to a press release, the partnership will see Nokia set up 60 new nodes, enabling Earthlink to expand broadband to 3.5 million people by the end of the year. As Pádraig Belton writes on Light Reading, Iraqi Internet is "boom territory" with Internet users in the country increasing by 55% between 2019 and 2020. (See Nokia nabs deal to build Iraqi broadband backbone.)
- In UK and European fiber news, BT's network access arm Openreach says it's well on its way toward its goal of providing fiber to 25 million UK premises by the end of 2026 (an increase on the company's initial goal of 20 million). This week Openreach said it added another 170 locations and has passed 6 million homes and businesses. And over in Italy, Connectivia has signed an agreement with FiberCop (Telecom Italia's last-mile infrastructure company; not a fiber-focused police officer), whereby Connectivia will connect to FiberCop-fed homes in six Campania municipalities.
- The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a new incentive program on Thursday that aims to make spectrum available for small carriers, tribal nations and those wishing to provide service to rural areas. According to a press release, qualifying transactions must "facilitate spectrum use by entities unaffiliated with the licensee wherein the licensee designates at least 50% of the licensed spectrum to an assignee or a lessee through either a small carrier or Tribal Nation transaction or through a rural-focused transaction." In a statement about the program – called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program (ECIP) – Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said: "We know today that some wireless providers have access to airwaves that others might be better positioned to deploy. But our rules don’t always make it easy to get spectrum resources to those who want to build in the places that need it most. This new program will help fix that by building better incentives." Those include "longer license terms, more flexible construction requirements, and some more options for complying with our rules," said Rosenworcel. (See Broadband advocates push for broader spectrum use and Rosenworcel fields questions on FCC's broadband map in Senate hearing.)
— Nicole Ferraro, site editor, Broadband World News; senior editor, global broadband coverage, Light Reading. Host of "The Divide" on the Light Reading Podcast