With the second round of the U.S. broadband stimulus race in full force and the FCC pushing its National Broadband Plan agenda forward, broadband vendor community members are shining up their wares to get incorporated into the tier one major and smaller service provider community. One vendor that's hoping to get invited to the network build out party that will ensue as federal stimulus funds are awarded is Occam Networks. FierceTelecom recently caught up with Bob Howard-Anderson, President and CEO Occam Networks to talk about broadband market and technology trends emerging both in the U.S. and in Europe.
FierceTelecom: One of the recent broadband news highlights was the entry of both Qwest and Windstream into the second round of the broadband stimulus race. How significant is their presence?
Howard-Anderson: In general it's a good thing. The significant takeaway there is that in the second round of the NOFA, the government agencies relaxed some of the rules to make it more efficient to apply. The effects of those rules has been that companies did not see being viable for round 1 are now viable for round 2. That has to do with the definitions they are using for unserved versus underserved. More importantly, it also has to do with the definition of rural and how close you can be to a densely populated area. It dramatically increases the number of areas ILECs can target and even allowed some of the biggest carriers to get in the game. Windstream and Qwest announced they are going after big dollars, but not dramatically so that it swamps all the money in their direction. By the way, TDS Telecom has applied for 46 applications in over 20 states.
It's these national carriers that have national scope, but aren't focused on the biggest NFL cities that are now going to get some help from these stimulus programs in a material way. As a result more of America will be impacted with the ability to get better broadband services. It was a very material demonstration of how those rules changes made it more possible to do what the original intent was which was to significantly increase the numbers of subscribers or lines that would be impacted by this.
FierceTelecom: Will these entrants create more opportunities for Occam and other broadband vendors to take part in?
Howard-Anderson: Again, we have not sold to the RBOCs, but we have sold to general category below the RBOCs with a little incumbency at Windstream and TDS. As you know, we have a deep relationship also with FairPoint. The fact that those companies can now get stimulus dollars is a good thing. Still, it's too early to tell as you have to get your application and then there's a commercial construction process of bidding and vendor selection. It's a bit too early to tell, but we see the opportunity being a positive one.
FierceTelecom: The first round of funding awards centered on the middle mile. What's your take on this concept and how will it help broadband deployments?
Howard-Anderson: My own perspective is I would like to go 75 to the last mile and 25 to the middle mile, but there's no doubt that the middle mile is a key bottleneck point. It does not help to have 100 Mbps or greater over fiber or even VDSL2 if you going to be bottlenecked upstream from that. A lot of these middle mile projects are enabling both organizations that will share access and allow different access providers to hang off those connections and get the greater middle mile bandwidth. They are also serving other organizations like government agencies, schools and medical centers so it's helping get the highest degree to organizations that might not have been able to do it on a strictly budgetary basis before that.