Across the US, states and cities have been investing in internet infrastructure to close the digital divide. While the U.S. Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) 2019 Broadband Deployment Report indicated that 21.3 million Americans do not have access to wired or wireless broadband internet, BroadbandNow, an independent research company studying access to internet technologies, estimated in 2020 that the actual number of US Americans without high-speed internet is twice that amount. There are plenty of urban areas without access to quality high-speed internet, however, rural communities like the Southern and Northern Tiers make up the larger part of those regions lacking reliable internet access. The digital divide was already a problem, creating an increasing disparity in income and educational opportunities, but the COVID pandemic exposed just how disconnected our region can be from school, work, health care access, and families in areas without broadband internet.
HUNT’s vision, “building vibrant communities by empowering creativity and partnership,” is reflected in our interest in this expanding field; we have worked with several clients on developing internet infrastructure. Our Information Technology department has been working with the Town of Dryden since 2020 to provide engineering and planning services to launch a municipally owned and operated fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network. We started with a study that identified areas lacking sufficient broadband services and examined the existing available services, as well as the accuracy of the utility’s data and associated costs. Our team developed a financial model detailing the viability of constructing and operating a municipal broadband system based on technical information discovered and survey data collected from residents. HUNT also helped identify state and federal funding opportunities that would help cover project costs, keeping service fees low for local customers. Right now, the Town is funding the project through a COVID-19 relief package from the federal government and a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission while continuing to apply for other existing grant opportunities.
“PON is the best choice for advanced broadband services. It offers many advantages over other technologies, providing greater bandwidth and faster speeds over longer distances with better reliability and flexibility – and there’s no need for electronics on telephone poles or building exteriors.” – Ryan Garrison
Our partnerships with network companies like Ciena Corporation and local ISPs give us the knowledge base we need to ensure a successful rollout of advanced network solutions for our clients. Based on the FTTH feasibility study and working with the Town, HUNT selected a passive optical network (PON). PON Technology uses fiber-optic cable to distribute signals from a head-end (a centralized control unit where external sources for programming and data are gathered, processed, and packaged for distribution) to homes and businesses via optical splitters. Together the Town of Dryden and HUNT chose Ciena to supply the network infrastructure, selecting their Universal Aggregation (UA) solution, including the 5164 Router, pluggable XGS-PON uOLT, 3801 XGS-PON ONU and Manage, Control, and Plan (MCP) domain controller. Ciena is also assisting with network deployment and operations training which will begin later this year.
Communities are looking for modern solutions to solve the digital divide; HUNT is proud to be a part of this national movement to connect our neighbors, schools, and local businesses on a global scale.