Fiber Optic Cabinets, Cables, Pedestals and Terminals

After months of waiting, the BEAD allocations to the states and territories have been made, and the clock has started. Within five years, all the NTIA funding should be allocated and put to use, connecting the unconnected and upgrading underserved areas languishing with obsolete telecommunications hardware.

Fiber’s time has arrived, with a specific 5-Year Action Plan requirement in BEAD that States must design, submit for approval by NTIA and roll out to unserved and underserved locations. Sure, there’s some fine print that allows NTIA to grant extensions, but there’s also ominous language on how NTIA may pursue “all available grant compliance and enforcement mechanisms…. Up to and including the clawback” of funds.

Handing back grant money is not a win if you can’t get things built on time. Funding will be monitored closely with execution, meaning actual network build within the timeline, one of the metrics of success. Lighting up households as quickly as possible is the goal and will ultimately be what keeps everyone on alert--from Washington D.C. regulatory folks on overwatch to the local neighborhoods that have never had broadband.

But the uncertainties start to crop up once it is time to move from paper to moving dirt, stringing fiber, splicing strands, and ultimately turning up households. Network builders, as much as they’d like to, can’t have everything they want when they want it. While the supply chain difficulties of the COVID era appear to be subsiding, there are no guarantees that there won’t be spot shortages in the future as everyone rushes to start and complete builds. Manufacturers such as Clearfield started building up capacity last year to meet current and future demand for the products necessary to light up all the new places that will be connected between national, state, local, and private funding.

The unknown factor in the mix is the availability of a skilled telecommunications workforce necessary to place, splice, and install fiber over the next five years.  Workforce uncertainty is not limited to fiber, with the entire U.S. economy trying to find the workers needed to fill positions from kitchen staff and servers at the local restaurant to skilled openings in electrical and other crafts.

To hedge against workforce uncertainty, service providers and the contractors they select must use craft-friendly, easily installable methods for fiber from the core network down to the household installation. Simplifying the installation using the latest technology not only saves money – less technician time on site to turn up an installation – but time, the most valuable commodity. And since the BEAD clock is now ticking, you don’t want to get caught up in a clawback scenario because of missed deadlines.

Kevin leads the marketing efforts for Clearfield as Chief Marketing Officer. He joined the fiber company in 2016, leveraging his extensive experience in advanced communications technology, fiber optic systems, and business product marketing. Prior to joining Clearfield, he spent two decades serving in various senior marketing positions at ADTRAN. Before that, he spent a decade at telephone operating company BellSouth, now a part of AT&T, where he worked as the lead broadband product evaluations resource in the Science & Technology department.

Morgan currently serves on the Fiber Broadband Association Senior Council Committee and has also held various leadership positions at the Fiber Broadband Association, including Board of Directors Chair for 2015, 2019, and 2022. Morgan holds an Electrical Engineering degree from Auburn University and an MBA from the University of Alabama.