Fiber Connect 2023: New Geospatial Planning Tools Announced by Fiber Broadband Association

At this year’s Fiber Connect 2023 event, the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) has unveiled a comprehensive suite of geospatial planning tools that promises to revolutionize the way members approach broadband deployment.
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The suite, consisting of Fiber Finder, the Fiber Strategy Toolkit, and the National Hex Toolkit, aims to empower FBA members with the ability to visualize existing broadband networks and identify areas with untapped potential.

The urgent need to bridge the digital divide is underscored by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) latest data, which reveals that over 8.3 million homes and businesses in the United States still lack access to high-speed broadband. Recognizing the critical role that advanced internet connectivity plays in ensuring equitable access to economic opportunities, the FBA’s new geospatial tools intend to provide policymakers, investors, and broadband providers with the necessary insights to address this challenge.

Deborah Kish, Vice President of Research and Workforce Development at the Fiber Broadband Association, emphasized the importance of these tools in the context of upcoming broadband deployment initiatives, particularly the Broadband Equity and Deployment Program (BEAD). “As all types of broadband providers are preparing their initial BEAD proposals, this type of data is very timely and extremely valuable in assessing the regions where fiber broadband is needed most,” said Kish.

The suite of geospatial planning tools comprises three distinct components:

Fiber Finder: This geospatial business planning solution utilizes data from the FCC Broadband Data Collection (BDC) released in May 2023. It allows broadband stakeholders, including providers, manufacturers, state broadband offices, and federal regulators, to map out the extent of residential and business fiber deployments in the United States. The tool offers insights by holding company, state, or territory.

Fiber Strategy Toolkit: Building on the capabilities of Fiber Finder, this toolkit provides a deeper understanding of fiber deployments by visualizing their presence, performance, and depth across various locations.

National Hex Toolkit: Expanding the visualization scope to include all BEAD-eligible technologies, such as fiber, cable, copper, and licensed fixed wireless terrestrial networks, this toolkit incorporates BEAD compliance layers based on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) BEAD NOFO definitions and recent federal datasets.

These geospatial planning tools join the Fiber Broadband Association’s existing library of research and resources aimed at supporting its members in making informed decisions. Notably, the FBA recently introduced the BEAD Threshold Cost Model with Cartesian, a tool designed to aid state broadband offices in accurately calculating the Extremely High Cost Per Location Threshold (ECHT) for BEAD-funded fiber broadband deployments.

With the introduction of these cutting-edge geospatial planning tools, the Fiber Broadband Association is poised to facilitate more efficient and strategic broadband expansion efforts, ultimately bringing high-quality fiber broadband to previously underserved and unserved communities across the nation.