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Our Company

Jan 02, 2020

Contributor:  Jim StegemanStephen Mok, Mike Wilson

As we celebrate with friends and family this holiday season and look forward to 2020, we can’t help but think about the number "20". This past November, our team proudly celebrated 20 years in business and it has us feeling sentimental about our origin. Our first employee hasn’t gotten (too) tired of us yet, and our latest hire was in pre-school when we started. It’s been quite the journey and we’re immensely grateful for the relationships that have propelled us to this point and the contributions of our team that have defined our reputation in the market.

Going into the new year, below are three things we’ll be keeping our eye in 2020, but first, we’d love to share a bit about our story, so that you might get to know us a bit better.

In 1999, our founders (Jim, Mark, and Mike) left the corporate telco world to set out on their own – the aim was simple: to serve clients by untangling their most complex problems and to be accountable for the results (what we refer to as Jim’s classic “no problem” project).  Much like the team at Google, founded a year earlier, our team had a healthy dose of youthful optimism that they could excel in the market by uncovering and serving unmet business needs. The beginning was rocky, but we found our footing in telecommunication economics, network modeling, and geographic information systems. Invaluable relationships with clients, advisors, and partners enabled us to build a foundation worth improving upon.

We didn’t turn out quite like Google, but we have achieved some pretty great things for a small firm.  

Over the years, we…

  • Created the UNE model used by BellSouth and defended it successfully in 8 states.
  • Created the model used by the FCC to create the National Broadband Plan.
  • Managed the state broadband initiative for 4 states and helped run the $500million NY auction.
  • Garnered the top 5 telecom companies, the top 3 cable companies, the top 5 wireless companies and the top 2 tower companies as clients.
  • Created the model used by the FCC to distribute over $3billion annually for broadband deployment in high cost areas.

While these big projects are noteworthy, it is our love of the challenge, our commitment to a work/life balance, and our tenacious pursuit of the root cause that makes us who we are.      

Teary eyed nostalgia aside, with challenges often come opportunities, and here are 3 areas we’re watching next year for both:

  1. Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

What you need to know: The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) will be a $20.4billion reverse auction conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to subsidize the buildout of broadband internet infrastructure in unserved parts of America. RDOF will be conducted in two phases, over the course of 10 years, and funding will only be made available to internet service providers that meet certain criteria. Generally speaking, there are financial and reporting requirements, but no mandates related to technology type. While it hasn’t been officially announced as of the time of this post, many believe that the FCC is looking to have the first auction in 2020. Our sense is that it will be the back half of the year. We’ll be posting more in-depth guides in the coming months.

Opportunities: Apply for funding and expand your service area. We’d recommend building analyses for eligible areas to stress test your cost estimates and prioritize bidding on the areas that you’re most comfortable with. Key considerations will be your confidence in the number of serviceable locations in an area, your comfort with support amounts, and mapping potential locations in the area to inform your cost estimates.

  1. Broadband DATA Act (and DODC)

What you need to know: There’s an Act, that has passed the House and Senate, that calls for several actions by the FCC. The general idea is to improve the granularity of data for broadband mapping to more accurately understand where broadband service is and isn’t. Should this Act get signed into law, the FCC will be required to build a broadband serviceable location fabric, complete with location-specific data upon which service availability data will be overlaid. At the same time, the FCC released an Order known as Digital Opportunity Data Collection, which calls for the use of shapefiles (containing polygons) by providers when reporting their service. This is the first step towards sub-census block reporting, small providers may be exempt initially, but expect additional detail in the early months of 2020.

  • This is less about expanding your business and more about moving to where the reporting “puck” will be. These changes are coming and while the exact requirements aren’t known yet, you can start planning your change management now. If it’s not already part of your regular business practices, consider exploring how you’ll create polygons of your service availability.

  1. 5G Fund

What you need to know: The $4.5B in funding set aside for Mobility Fund II will likely be rolled into a $9B 5G Fund. While it’s just in proposal form, short on details, the Fund would replace the 4G-centric Mobility Fund with more forward-looking technology solutions and with more funding to help with network density costs. A portion of the new 5G Fund will be set aside for mobile-supported agriculture. The proposal to replace the Mobility Fund came after a Challenge Process whereby mobile carrier coverage maps were tested. While the results of the coverage tests were somewhat embarrassing for some of the large carriers, results were mixed on test validity and would not be used to determine eligible areas for funding, according to the FCC.

Opportunities: The expanded Fund and scope will likely garner much attention in the coming year. The funding will be awarded via reverse auction with more details to come.

If you ever want to bring a problem too complex to undertake or simply know more about what we do, please feel free to learn more about us HERE.