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Vertical Asset Management, Public-Private Partnerships, and Funding Benchmarks for Broadband Deployment

February 14, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Tomy Granzier-Nakajima

Executive Summary 

Private corporations nationwide are not incentivized to deploy broadband services to areas which are not guaranteed to provide a significant financial return. Rural areas have low population densities, may require longer middle mile fiber networks, and may be surrounded by difficult terrain, which all increase the costs for broadband deployment. Economically disadvantaged communities in more urban areas may not provide enough financial incentive for providers to deploy broadband. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) such as those that have been established in states across the U.S. may help to overcome these barriers by leveraging financial resources, enhancing revenue potential, and sharing expertise. Additionally, fixed wireless networks may overcome some of these barriers by removing the requirement to physically deploy a fiber network. 

Highlights 

  • The BroadbandUSA program provides several suggestions for state and local governments to increase the success of public-private partnerships including: 1) reducing right of way requirements; 2) streamlining zoning and permitting processes, reducing or eliminating fees or rents in exchange for services or use of broadband network infrastructure; and 3) compensating partner participation by allowing use of unused fiber.
  • While the FCC uses 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds for their broadband benchmark, some federal grants, including the USDA ReConnect Grant and Loan Program and the Capital Projects Fund via the American Rescue Plan Act, are requiring 100 Mbps upload and download speeds to be delivered by grant awardees.
  • There are tens of thousands of kilometers of unused fiber, or dark fiber, available for lease or purchase in the United States.

Limitations 

  • There is a limited body of research investigating the effects of specific state policies on the successful implementation of public-private partnerships, particularly those that focus on broadband and fixed wireless.
  • There is limited publicly available information regarding 1) what situations lead to the choice of fixed wireless as an ideal broadband deployment technology, and 2) the extent of publicly- and privately-owned dark fiber.
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