Lots of broadband money, but the US expansion is seeing slowdowns

Victory, Vt. (AP) – In Victory’s remote Vermont community, Down Clerk Tracy Martell said she was frustrated when she saw the rotating circle on her computer online.

“Fast internet would be great,” Martell said, adding that the community of about 70 was one of the last communities in Vermont to receive electricity almost 60 years ago. The DSL service now works for the basic Internet, but it may be careless and not allow users to access all the benefits of an interconnected world.

About 5 miles (8 km) away the bird flies into the neighboring community via Miles Bond in Concord City, a new fiber optic line has begun to bring truly high-speed internet to the inhabitants of the remote area known as the Northeastern Kingdom. .

“I look forward to high-speed internet, streaming TV,” said Concord resident John Gilchrist, who earlier this year commissioned a team of fiber optic cable to his home.

The fiber-optic cable that begins to serve Concord’s remote area is provided by NEK Broadband, an application of nearly 50 Vermont cities that works to bring high – speed Internet service to the most remote parts of the state.

Christa Schutt, managing director of NEK Broadband, said the group’s business plan was to provide services to all potential customers within five years, but considering the current supply constraints and the shortage of trained technicians, she began to think that the goal could not be achieved.

“I think our creation takes seven to 10 years,” he said.

Congress has set aside billions of dollars for various projects to help fill the digital gap exposed by the epidemic, when millions of people were locked up at home with no way to study, work or access online medical care.

The first of those funds reaches municipalities, businesses and other groups involved in the initiative, but some say supply chain issues, labor shortages and geographical restrictions will slow the release.

The demand for fiber optic cable extends beyond wired broadband to homes and businesses. The cable will help deliver the 5G technology now being released by wireless communications providers.

But there is a hindrance in distribution. Michael Bell of Corning Optical Communications, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, said there was a problem with providing a protective jacket around the thin glass fibers that carry information about the beams.

Currently, some broadcasters say delays in getting the fiber optic cable they need can take more than a year.

“In terms of the ability we add and the ability to see what our competitors are adding, the waiting time will improve year by year and start to decrease dramatically next year,” Bell said. “When it comes to next year, I think the lead time for most customers will be less than a year.”

Meanwhile, there is a shortage of people to fit the cable. Jim Hayes, of Santa Monica, a California-based fiber optic association, says many in the industry are setting up education programs to train people to work with fiber.

“It has to be done now,” Hayes said. “We have to teach ten technologies for each technology. Who is capable of guiding them?”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the $ 1.5 trillion infrastructure bill passed last fall, states that areas with less than 25 megabits of downloads and 3 megabits of uploads broadband speeds will not be served. To qualify for various federal grants through the Infrastructure Bill and other programs, most completed projects must provide speeds of at least 100 megabits per second for downloads. Upload speeds vary, but most federal grants have at least 20 megabits of uploads.

In comparison, it takes 80 seconds to download 1 gigabyte of video at 100 megabytes per second. It takes four times as long – 320 seconds or more than 5 minutes – 25 megabits per second.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration – a part of the business agency that finances broadband projects across the country through infrastructure legislation – plays a neutral role in how Internet service providers meet speed requirements. Many providers claim that the key to bringing true high-speed Internet service across the country is installing fiber-optic cable at every nook and cranny.

The use of high-speed Internet in aboriginal communities and rural areas in the western United States will be far more challenging than in the rural areas of northern New England.

Broadband access at the Navajo Nation – the largest reservation in the United States at 27,000 square miles (69,930 sq km) in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah – is a combination of dial-up, satellite service, wireless, fiber and mobile data.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has extensive oversight of tribal affairs, and federal assessments, rights-of-way permits, environmental reviews, and archaeological protection laws may delay progress.

The argument against wireless options currently used in some areas cannot provide the speed needed to qualify for federal grants.

According to Mike Wendy of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, wireless technology is fast and reliable, and wireless connections are the only way to reach faraway places.

Wendy, who represents about 1,000 standard wireless Internet providers, said, “The challenge with this money is to make sure it’s delivered to those who are not served. Our comrades are in those markets now, and they are growing.”

Ohio Lieutenant Governor John Husted said $ 233 million in state dollars will be used to expand broadband to 43,000 families in his state. Other Internet service providers have agreed to expand broadband to a further 51,000 homes. The state of Ohio is expected to receive an additional $ 268 million in federal funding for further broadband expansion.

Husted said Ohio needs to focus on infrastructure, while groups and companies need to provide computers and help people adapt to the fast-growing digital age.

“We are building the road,” Husted said. “Broadband access is like a highway system. That’s what we’re focused on. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who don’t need cars or have a driver’s license.

There are still scattered locations across the country that rely on dialup and some in remote locations use satellite internet services. Some people have no internet options at all.

Victory Town Clark, Martell said, when residents of NEK Broadband visited, told residents it would take five to seven years for the fiber optic cable to reach the community.

But Schutz said his organization hopes to get a grant that connects most rural areas, which could move the deadline for success to three years.

In East Concord, after several weeks of service, Gilchrist said he and his 19-year-old daughter, Emily, were going to college in a few months and no longer had to go to a local restaurant to use the Internet. She canceled her expensive satellite TV service, which her daughter and her friends use to play video games online, and in a few more months she will use the link while in college.

“It works well, and for me, all I do is look at the email,” Gilchrist said. “I don’t watch TV, but my daughter loves it.”


Gillisby reported from Cleveland. AP Correspondent Felicia Fonseka contributed to the report from Flaxstaff, Arizona.

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