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The White House on Monday announced how the federal government will distribute over $40B in funding for high-speed broadband through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. The largest broadband focused stimulus program that has ever come to fruition, every U.S. state, including Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, has been allocated over $100M (territories received at least $25M) with 19 states receiving over $1B. The purpose of this ambitious program is first, to connect all unserved Americans and their anchor institutions (those receiving less than 25/3 Megabits per seconds (Mbps)) with fiber speeds (targeting 1 Gigabit per second or Gbps), and second, to upgrade those that are underserved (those receiving less than 100/20 Mbps). About 7% of the U.S. population (8 million homes) fall into these categories.

The BEAD Program, which is the largest of many broadband funding programs underway in the U.S. right now, has officially kicked off, with states knowing how much they’ve been allocated and under pressure over the coming months to submit their deployment plans (4 states have already submitted so this process is moving quickly). Preliminary indications are that a critical mass of winners may be receiving initial funds for buildouts by mid-2024.

Service Providers Should be Strategically Planning for BEAD

Thus, it is time for U.S. service providers to start thinking strategically about BEAD funding opportunities in their respective states. Let’s examine a couple of areas that aspiring awardees should think about in planning for BEAD:

  • Government programs like BEAD are NOT a business strategy in and of themselves – they are a component of a long-term strategy. Yes, awardees will receive potentially millions of dollars to serve rural communities, but remember that BEAD awards will require a minimum 25% match and prefer matches well above this level. Additionally, these communities will need to be served well beyond the 4-year implementation timeframe of this program. Thus, each community build-out will need a viable long-term business case. This means that awardees should carefully consider key influential factors like ease of future upgrades, remote network monitoring and maintenance, equipment resilience and longevity, and the ease of adding new revenue-generating services in the future.
  • Do NOT forget about the Middle Mile – Although BEAD is clearly focused on Last Mile connectivity, funding includes any Middle Mile investments necessary to enable service to the end community. Thus, awardees should make sure that they invest in Middle Mile solutions that can both support the needs of these communities from the start and scale to meet their future demands as efficiently as possible. Furthermore, Middle Mile investments should also be viewed as strategic beyond the scope of serving the end communities, because although BEAD funds can’t be used to leverage the Middle Mile network to better the services of communities along the way, the same service providers can circle back to leverage it for future investments in other communities that could benefit after their BEAD buildout.
  • Do NOT forget about necessary software investments – The reality of BEAD deployments is that software will be necessary to meet the reporting requirements associated with the program in terms of performance assurance. However, software directly related to the performance of the network, such as service assurance and remote network monitoring and troubleshooting will be both covered and essential for the long-term viability of these networks. The more automated, orchestrated and remotely configurable these networks, many of them remote, will be more viable for the ongoing business case by limiting truck rolls and other OPEX, both in the network as well as in the home, business, or anchor institution.
  • Choose Your Partners Wisely – Some of the open requirements of BEAD that are still being refined are aspects like Build America, Buy America (BABA). Although waivers have been issued in the past for some U.S. government programs preceding BEAD, it is clear that BEAD itself will be subject to more stringent requirements. Align yourself with U.S. based vendors who already have a track record of designing and building Last Mile and Middle Mile networks in the U.S. and proven domestic manufacturing partnerships. There is no reimbursement for false starts if you find out that your vendor or partner doesn’t qualify midway through the planning or deployment process.

DZS: Primed to Help Service Providers Achieve BEAD Success

Texas-based DZS has been thinking strategically about BEAD since its inception, and it is the domestic vendor that is best aligned with the strategic needs of potential awardees. Our environmentally hardened and future-ready Velocity Last Mile and Saber Middle Mile solutions are not only fully aligned with BEAD Program requirements but architected for the long-term success of service provider deployments beyond the end of these stimulus programs. Furthermore, they are designed and built in U.S.-based manufacturing facilities today, leveraging a majority of domestically produced components, and thus already aligned with BABA requirements. DZS Cloud software products provide end-to-end service assurance, automation, orchestration, and experience management, not only capable of meeting BEAD reporting requirements but preparing service providers for the realities of remote monitoring and management for rural areas.

BEAD offers an unprecedented opportunity for U.S. service providers to not only better serve their communities and regions, but position themselves for growth and long-term business success. DZS is primed to be your enabling partner for this program. Keep your eyes open for the upcoming DZS announcement that will put you on the fast track to BEAD success, including a Middle Mile webinar focused on how to best bridge the “digital divide”. To learn more and to register for the event, click here.

In the meantime, contact us to learn more about how DZS can help you achieve both BEAD success as well as gain a long-term, sustainable Competitive EDGE. More information can be found at www.DZSI.com.

Geoff Burke's Image
Posted By Geoff Burke

SVP, Marketing

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