Over four million children couldn’t access the internet for online learning during the pandemic. Currently, 42 million Americans lack broadband access, creating a major barrier to opportunity for U.S. families impacted economically, educationally and socially.
Growing up in an underserved area, I witnessed the transformative power of connectivity and its potential to uplift communities. As Zayo’s Chief Product Officer, I am passionate about utilizing technology to connect people and businesses. My role involves leading the company’s product strategy and roadmap, with a strong focus on developing innovative products and services that expand internet access. Through our recent funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Middle Mile Grant Program, Zayo is taking decisive steps to connect communities and pave the way for a more inclusive and connected future. I’m proud to be a part of this effort.
Zayo’s transformative middle-mile projects
The $92.9 million in funding represents a major milestone in our commitment to closing the digital divide. With these funds, we plan to undertake three projects extending network infrastructure across eight states and over 2,100 route miles. These projects have been carefully selected based on needs-based criteria, such as current broadband speeds, rural and socio-economic indicators, to ensure we can significantly affect marginalized communities. Fiber is the foundation for broadband for all. Connecting these regions can bridge the technological gap and create a pathway for better economic prospects and educational resources.
The first project aims to build a high-capacity fiber route spanning over 622 route miles — or fiber optic cables linking locations along a specific route — to connect communities in Oregon, California and Nevada. Our primary goal is to connect these underserved communities and benefit households, businesses and anchor organizations in Oregon, California and Nevada.
El Paso to Dallas Project
Our second project involves constructing a high-capacity, middle-mile fiber route stretching over 644 miles to establish broadband in rural areas across Western Texas, from El Paso to Dallas. These areas currently lack fiber networks with the capacity to serve entire rural communities.
Dallas to Atlanta Project
The third project focuses on creating additional network connectivity exit ramps along our existing unique, five-state route between Dallas, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia, covering 822 route miles.
Network connectivity exit ramps are crucial access points and off-ramps for data traffic, facilitating seamless connections and providing enhanced flexibility to customers. By optimizing network efficiency and streamlining data transfers, they lead to improved user experiences and higher performance for businesses across industries. These exit ramps add value by meeting evolving digital demands and solidifying Zayo’s position as a leader in innovative, future-ready network solutions.
We targeted these areas in particular because the median broadband access speed is at or less than 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) down * 25 Mbps up. We’ve observed that a significant percentage of the population in these regions falls under the federal poverty rate, and many school districts have a high level of participation in the national school lunch program. Additionally, 36 schools are within 1,000 feet of the fiber routes, meaning they’ll benefit from improved connectivity, enabling them to access essential online resources, support remote learning initiatives and enhance educational opportunities for students and faculty alike.
Connecting communities one project at a time
Zayo’s middle-mile mission is built on partnerships with government entities and local ISPs. These collaborations foster economic growth within the state and ensure broadband connectivity for underserved areas. Our strong relationships with local ISPs, cultivated over years of working together to interconnect on our network, allow us to identify and address the specific needs of each community. We are actively working with ISP partners and local broadband offices to identify other potential underserved areas.
Fiber is the perfect solution for connecting underserved areas because it is a long-lasting, reliable, scalable infrastructure asset. Fiber can connect the edge to the core and support a wide range of applications, including 5G, cloud computing and enterprise networking. With the support of our partners, we aim to foster a collaborative ecosystem around fiber, ensuring equal internet access for all communities and preventing them from becoming isolated broadband islands.
This funding is a step forward in our mission to help transform remote education, telemedicine and public safety communication. We understand that connectivity is both a technological endeavor and an essential tool for empowerment and economic development. Internet access is a fundamental right, and my mission is to provide reliable bandwidth to these communities, foster economic growth and level the digital playing field.
As Chief Product Officer at Zayo, Bill Long leads the company’s overall product strategy, financials, and roadmap. He has nearly two decades of experience in the telecommunications industry with expertise in interconnection and infrastructure services, enterprise and wholesale voice, and business and product development. Prior to joining Zayo, Bill served as senior vice president of product management and was responsible for the overall growth and profitability of Equinix Interconnection and was Voice President of Voice Services at Level 3 Communications. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
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