The importance of broadband infrastructure has become increasingly apparent in recent years, especially due to the impacts of COVID-19. Although reliable internet access provides a vital lifeline to work, school, and telehealth to millions of Americans across the country, building such infrastructure can prove to be a challenging process. This is particularly true in rural areas where knowledge and experience are limited. In this article, we will explore the challenges and solutions available to building affordable and reliable broadband infrastructure to close America’s digital divide.
One of the biggest challenges in building broadband infrastructure is the unpredictability of the process. It can be difficult to accurately predict construction timelines and costs if working with a novice team. This can pose initial barriers to success as residents and communities must first be educated on the importance of infrastructure, the process, potential risks, and more.
A more obvious challenge is funding. The process to obtain funding, especially through leveraging state or federal grants, has become a hot topic with politicians and community leaders. Although dozens of programs exist with a wide range of eligibility criteria, the funding process is often slow and full of bureaucratic red tape (in both the public and private sectors).
To help mitigate the unpredictability of the construction process, it’s important to clearly manage the expectations of all stakeholders. It’s crucial to not let communities or municipalities believe that funding will be available next week – as this isn’t the case.
With any broadband project, the top priority should be the end consumer who also needs to be aware of the realities of the funding process. Thankfully, many state governments and federal departments have also recognized the need for quickly expanding broadband access and have created special grants and programs to aid and expedite the expansion journey.
The End Result
Now is the time to focus on broadband expansion and bridging the digital divide. With private sector funds flowing and public sector grants and programs slowly coming in, we predict the next five to ten years will bring a new wave of ambitious infrastructure growth across the county. As an industry, we have made significant progress and change since 2020 and we have laid the foundation to continue this growth trajectory.
Building reliable, modern, and affordable broadband infrastructure can certainly be a challenging process but with the right knowledge and experience, amazing things can be done for Americans across the country. With partnerships between both the private and public sectors, a significant amount of money is being fed into the market and will help benefit generations to come.
Today, it’s all about managing expectations and clearly communicating the realities of the funding process to communities, governments, private sector partners, and other stakeholders. This is key when undertaking any broadband expansion initiative.