In February, when talk of a broadband stimulus program was still speculative, Infinera announced its DTN Digital Optical Networking system had been approved for use by companies using USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) funding. (For more, click here.)
It turns out RUS will be the agency distributing $2.5 billion to bring high-speed Internet access to unserved and underserved communities.
With Infinera’s pre-certification in place and its experience helping build fiber networks in rural areas, the company is positioned to reap some of the benefits of the broadband stimulus.
Infinera spokesman Jeff Ferry said the company sought RUS certification at the request of some of its rural customers because it’s easier for operators that are applying for RUS loans if the products they want to use are pre-approved. "We realized that it would help our customers deploy Infinera if we got certification," Ferry said.
Infinera’s DTN is based on its large-scale photonic integrated circuits. The DTN is a digital reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer (ROADM) for long-haul and metro core networks.
"A lot of the problem that rural areas face is they don’t have the big pipe to get onto the global Internet," said Ferry. "There are rural cable companies and rural telcos who don’t see a way to cost effectively build that big pipe."
Matt Polka, president of the American Cable Association, has said that the main challenge in bringing high-speed Internet to rural areas is the "middle mile" and last mile. (For more, click here and here.)
Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative is a wholesale broadband provider that used Infinera to bring high-speed Internet to 60 counties in rural southern Virginia.
With the help of $30 million from the state of Virginia, MBC built an Infinera network through southern Virginia to Atlanta. The project included connections from the global Internet to small towns, what Ferry called "the middle mile."
MBC doesn’t do the last mile. So cable companies and wireless providers have worked with the separate small communities to choose the best solution for the last mile. "MBC offered the backhaul by building the fiber network," said Ferry. "Cable companies are making money by doing that last mile."
Ferry said MBC executives have been asked to speak at conferences in Asia and Africa about the co-op’s experience in bringing high-speed Internet to rural areas.
– Linda Hardesty
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