Student teams compete on plans to expand broadband in NW Missouri

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Register now for free Aug. 20 event.

  • Published: Friday, July 22, 2022

MARYVILLE, Mo. – Teams of students from across the University of Missouri System are competing to develop plans for supplying access to affordable high-speed internet to residents and businesses in northwestern Missouri.

The teams will present their plans 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Aug. 20, at the Mozingo Event Center, 1 Fall Drive, Maryville. The event, which will also be livestreamed, is free and open to the public.

“These students are taking on a real-world challenge — an actual community facing the problem of inadequate broadband access — and coming up with potential plans for workable public-private partnership (P3) models,” said Anthony Luppino, a member of the UM System Broadband Initiative(opens in new window) steering committee and director of Entrepreneurship Programs at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

The three teams comprise students from various disciplines, including engineering, business, law and computer science. Prior to the presentations, a five-person panel will judge the proposals on their quality and feasibility.

Proposals must address strategies for increasing adoption of internet-based technologies and include a plan to finance expansion of the community’s broadband infrastructure. The teams’ plans may be used by the community in their broadband expansion efforts.

“The P3 Competition is a creative way to get the next generation of students to engage with communities to solve real-time challenges and improve economic opportunities, while building skills necessary in today’s globally competitive market,” said Kimberly Mildward, economic development planner with the Northwest Missouri Regional Council of Governments.

Using an approach outlined in the UM System Broadband Initiative’s Digitally Connected Community Guide(opens in new window), the student teams hope to provide useful ideas for bringing affordable high-speed internet to the region and encouraging the use of broadband applications.

Attendance at the Aug. 20 event, in person or via livestream, is free. Register in advance at umurl.us/P3Event(opens in new window). On-site registration starts at 8:30 a.m.

The event and student competition are sponsored by the H&R Block Foundation and the City of Maryville.

Contacts for more information on the competition and broadband planning in northwestern Missouri:

Writer: Katherine Foran

Fixed Wireless Technologies and Their Suitability for Broadband Delivery

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Written by Andrew L. Afflerbach, Ph.D., P.E.
CTC Technology & Energy

As state and local governments and their partners plan to invest billions of dollars in federal funding to build broadband infrastructure, choosing the best technology will have significant long-term implications. Federal policymakers have addressed this subject to some degree: For example, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program’s notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) preferences fiber over fixed wireless.

To aid state and local policymakers, this report offers an engineering analysis of fixed-wireless technologies and their suitability for delivering broadband service in various environments. The report addresses a range of critical technology and cost considerations related to fixed-wireless networks—and, as a point of comparison, to fiber-to-the-premises networks.

At a high level, the report concludes the following:

  • Fixed-wireless technologies will continue to improve but will not match the performance of fiber-optic networks—primarily because the existing and potential bandwidth of fiber is thousands of times higher than wireless. Also, fixed-wireless networks have inherent capacity limitations that sharply limit the number of users on a network using a given amount of spectrum.
  • Fixed-wireless network coverage is adversely affected by line-of-sight obstructions (including buildings and seasonal foliage) and weather. While a fiber network can physically connect every household in a service area (and deliver predictable performance), it is significantly more complex for a fixed-wireless network to deliver a line of sight to every household in a service area.
  • Scalability is a critical challenge to fixed-wireless deployments, both technically and financially. A given amount of wireless spectrum is capable of supporting a given amount of network capacity. If the number of network users increases or users need more bandwidth, the network operator must increase the spectrum (which is both scarce and extremely expensive—and may not be possible), upgrade the technology, or add antennas. It is challenging to design a fixed wireless network that will provide sufficient, robust upstream and downstream capacity and reach all the addresses in unserved areas.
  • The fastest fixed-wireless technologies (such as those that use millimeter-wave spectrum) are effective in delivering short-range service to closely grouped households in urban and suburban settings. These technologies are largely unsuitable for serving rural communities because of the typical geographic dispersion of addresses and the lack of mounting structures (such as towers or building rooftops).
  • Fiber is sustainable, scalable, and renewable. It offers greater capacity, predictable performance, lower maintenance costs, and a longer technological lifetime than fixed-wireless technologies. Fiber service is not degraded by line-of-sight issues and is not affected by the capacity issues that constrain fixed wireless networks.

To further illustrate the relative strengths and weaknesses of fixed-wireless technologies, this report presents an analysis of capital and operating costs for a candidate fixed wireless network as compared to a candidate fiber optic network in the same real-world settings. The candidate networks were each designed to deliver complete coverage to unserved residential locations.

While the cost analysis illustrates that fiber’s upfront capital costs are higher than those of fixed wireless in many circumstances, the total cost of ownership over 30 years is comparable for fiber and fixed wireless.

Given the above analysis, fiber offers the greater long-term value as compared to fixed-wireless technologies because of fiber’s long life, capabilities, scalability, and flexibility. In the event that a state funds technologies other than fiber, such as in circumstances where the capital cost to build fiber is cost-prohibitive or the need for service cannot wait for fiber construction, the state should take steps to protect its investment—such as by requiring grantees to guarantee the long-term maintenance and operations of the fixed wireless network. This could be accomplished by requiring a 20-year performance and budget roadmap, and a viable strategy for full service where line-of-sight is a challenge.

This publication was commissioned by the Communications Workers of America and prepared by CTC Technology & Energy in the spring of 2022.

UM’s Digitally Connected Community Guide tapped for national workshop

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The UM System Broadband Initiative team will help train extension professionals to be effective partners in closing the digital divide in their states at a May 3-5 “Advancing Digital Access” workshop in St. Louis.

The National Digital Extension Education Team (NDEET) asked UM to provide a train-the-trainer program modeled on the Digitally Connected Community Guide, which was developed by the UM System Broadband Initiative. NDEET is based at Mississippi State University’s Southern Rural Development Center.

“It’s an honor that the Digitally Connected Community Guide was selected by NDEET to train extension colleagues across the nation,” said Alison Copeland, UM System deputy chief engagement officer. “This collaborative national training opportunity strengthens the impact of broadband expansion across rural America and other areas of need by bringing together extension professionals as co-learners and community catalysts.”

The Digitally Connected Community Guide is an online curriculum that offers a step-by-step process to engage local partners and residents to bring high-speed internet to more Missouri communities and increase internet adoption, digital literacy and the use of internet applications to improve health, education and economic opportunities.

Former MU Extension NW regional director Joe Lear will facilitate the workshop. Lear also is leading the Digitally Connected Community Guide process in the 11 Missouri counties that have adopted it to date.

More about the Digitally Connected Community Guide.

Conquering the St. Louis Digital Divide:

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New Report Outlines Steps Necessary to Bridge the Gap

To bridge the digital divide in St. Louis City and County, the region must address service and device affordability, coverage and quality gaps within its technical infrastructure, and provide digital training and support for many, according to a new report on the subject issued today. It was commissioned by the St. Louis Community Foundation and the Regional Business Council (RBC) and prepared by the Center for Civic Research and Innovation (CCRI) and accounting firm EY (Ernst & Young). Read more here.

MetroNet to Make O’Fallon a Gigabit City

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MetroNet announced plans to build an advanced fiber-optic network in O’Fallon, bringing gigabit-speed internet service to residents and businesses in the city for the first time. MetroNet, the nation’s largest independently owned 100 percent fiber-optic provider, will fully fund the construction through a multi-million dollar investment. MetroNet expects construction to begin in O’Fallon next year, with the first customers coming online as neighborhood buildouts are completed.

Broadband Availability Mapping – MOST Policy Initiative

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National, state, and local institutions are actively collecting data about broadband internet availability. Maps displaying broadband availability, adoption, and speed are useful to policymakers, broadband providers, and grantmaking organizations because they help identify areas of need, inform priorities, and direct broadband deployment funds.

FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – Summary

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On February 25th, the FCC unanimously adopted a Report and Order that established the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to help lower the cost of high-speed internet for eligible households during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program was created by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. This is a new program and information is being hastily compiled and distribute. This document represents the best understanding of the program possible at this time.

FCC Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Fact Sheet

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On February 25th, the FCC unanimously adopted a Report and Order that established the Emergency
Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to help lower the cost of high-speed internet
for eligible households during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Benefit
Program was created by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.