AZ TechCast: Bridging the Digital Divide with Open Networking for Broadband Services

Bridging the Digital Divide

Last week I was invited to participate on a panel for the AZ TechCast, the official podcast of the Arizona Technology Council. The Arizona Technology Council is a statewide trade association that serves as a unifying force for the technology community in the state of Arizona, dedicated to fostering innovation, supporting the growth of tech companies, and driving economic development in the region. The council brings together a diverse group of individuals and organizations, including entrepreneurs, startups, established tech companies, educational institutions, and government entities.

The AZ TechCast is a monthly podcast hosted on Phoenix Business RadioX that is dedicated to covering technology trends in Arizona and beyond. AZ TechCast guests are sourced from the region’s most innovative technology corporations and startups that are providing technology solutions for society’s most pressing issues.

For this most recent episode published October 27, the title of the session was, “Connecting Worlds: Bridging the Digital Divide with Broadband,” and was hosted by Steve Zylstra, President and CEO of the AZ Tech Council, and Karen Nowicki, President of Phoenix Business RadioX. The panelists included myself, Seth Haller, Director of Sales for the Western Region for EPS Global and Sandip Bhowmick, Director of Broadband for the Arizona Commerce Authority.

You can access the replay of the live broadcast here.

It was an informative and dynamic discussion mostly focused on the challenges of providing broadband access and infrastructure to Arizona’s diverse populations.

The Rural Broadband Initiative is a program that aims to provide high-speed Internet access to rural communities in the United States. The program is run by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and provides loans and grants to help fund the construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas. The USDA has been investing in rural telecommunications infrastructure for decades, and hundreds of millions of dollars are annually available in the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) programs to support modern broadband e-Connectivity in rural communities. In 2018, the USDA introduced the ReConnect Program, which has invested over $1 billion to date to expand high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas and tribal lands. The program is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to investing in rural infrastructure and affordable high-speed Internet for all.

States like Arizona with rural communities spread out over a large land mass historically have faced challenges in broadband deployment. Often these underserved communities are in outlying areas that the private sector can’t economically service. Initiatives such as the Rural Broadband Initiative can help fill in the budget gap, and help solve the access problems that the open market might be slow to address.

Sandip Bhowmick, as Director of Broadband for the Arizona Commerce Authority, was able to give a broader picture of the nature of the problem for Arizona, as well as provide some insights into disparity in access between the rural vs. urban areas. With this big-picture in mind, Seth Haller from EPS Global and I were able to pitch in some technical discussions about the benefits of open networking to this scenario. Even with government budgets; or maybe more acutely, especiallywith government budgets, infrastructure spending needs to be smart and resourceful. Open networking tools and white box networking offer the benefits of closed systems vendors, and as we’ve proven over and over again, often at a fraction of the price. This benefits all stakeholders, especially the tax payers responsible for funding these communal benefits.

White box networking can be critical in these scenarios due to several factors, including being budget smart and supply-chain sensitive, with equipment often being available more immediately than the multi-year leads times the Tier 1 vendors often require. Additionally, many of these deployments are brown-field infrastructures, with some parts of the network already in place. Network operating systems offer the platform interoperability that is critical for a smart upgrade path. Indeed, in many customer case studies our OcNOS platform can serve as the ‘glue’ that connects disparate and deployed networks from many other vendors.

Arizona is not unique in addressing these access challenges, and ongoing we are hoping to work more closely with these initiatives. For more information on the podcast and the AZTechCast, you can access the replay of the live broadcast here:

Contact IP Infusion today to learn more.

Kelly LeBlanc is the Chief Marketing and Product Officer for IP Infusion.