Also in this roundup: Virginia allocates $20 million for broadband projects; Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) intros Broadband Justice Act; global Wi-Fi market projected for growth; WISPA offers Congress seven steps to end the digital divide.
The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport announced today the launch of Project Gigabit, a £5 billion (US$6.9 billion) effort to build next-generation gigabit broadband to areas "which would otherwise have been left behind in broadband companies' rollout plans." The first phase of the project will focus on building out infrastructure to one million hard-to-reach homes and businesses. In a press release, the government said that includes up to 510,000 homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley; followed by 640,000 premises in Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Responding to the plan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Project Gigabit "the rocket boost that we need to get lightning-fast broadband to all areas of the country." Service providers including Openreach, CityFibre and Gigaclear were quoted in the release responding favorably to the news: "We'll be considering these proposals for the final 20% with interest and we're keen to support the Government," said Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach. "This is a massive opportunity to level-up the country and boost the bounce-back after the pandemic, so it's important the process moves quickly and that all operators do their bit." That's the positive spin. Now, to pick up the bill and add a different perspective, let's ask taxpayer Iain Morris on Light Reading: Project Gigabit, or how to waste £5B of UK taxpayers' money.
The state of Virginia is allocating $20.1 million in grants to 17 localities in mostly rural areas across the state to improve broadband infrastructure. The funding is part of the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), which has committed $73.1 million to broadband partners and local governments since 2018. According to a press release from Governor Ralph Northam's office, those efforts thus far have connected 76,351 Virginians to broadband; with this latest round of funding to support 11 projects, connecting 13,400 more customers. Funding recipients primarily comprise fiber providers, including CenturyLink, RiverStreet, MGW/Lingo and others; with some allocated for fixed wireless providers, including Briscnet and Gigabeam.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) this week introduced the Broadband Justice Act in an effort to treat broadband as a utility, like gas and electricity. According to a website set up to promote and solicit support for the bill, the legislation would require the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), along with the Treasury Department and USDA, "to include broadband as a utility allowance so it can be subsidized for families living in government-assisted housing." A report in the Verge also notes that the proposal would create a grant program to help wire buildings and build out broadband infrastructure.
According to new data from ResearchAndMarkets, the global Wi-Fi market is set to grow to $25.2 million by 2026, up from $9.4 million in 2020. Representing 17.8% CAGR, growth drivers include the increasing need for connectivity – accelerated, of course, by the pandemic – as well as Wi-Fi adoption in sectors including education, healthcare, retail and IT. The report notes that the Asia-Pacific region is set for the most growth during this period: "APAC is witnessing an upsurge in the adoption of smart devices and internet, mandating the need for reliable and secure internet connectivity."
Following a US Senate committee hearing this week entitled "Recent Federal Actions to Expand Broadband: Are We Making Progress?" the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) issued a statement to essentially say, yes, but... and offered up seven steps for Congress to take in order to eradicate the digital divide. Those steps include targeting communities that lack broadband first ("instead of the 'need' for 'future proof' speed," it said); make government subsidies transparent and tech neutral; and "understand that fixed wireless is part of the solution," among other recommendations. "WISPA believes these are essential steps in carrying forward the progress made by WISPs and others who faithfully serve those presently stranded, but not for long, in the digital divide," said Christina Mason, VP of Government Affairs for WISPA. (See Podcast – The Divide: WISPA's Claude Aiken on tech-neutral solutions.)
Charter has sparked RDOF work in all 24 states where it won bids. The cable op booked about $19 million in RDOF revenues in Q1, and expects to have about $9 million per month come in over the next ten years.
Launch of 2-Gig and 5-Gig FTTP tiers in 70-plus markets puts more pressure on cable ops to enhance their existing DOCSIS 3.1 network or accelerate their upgrade activity centered on the new DOCSIS 4.0 specs.