In our rapidly advancing digital age, reliable, fast internet access is necessary for individuals, businesses, and communities to thrive. While urban areas have enjoyed the benefits of high-speed fiber internet for years, small towns and rural locations were often left behind. However, there is hope on the horizon in the form of public-private partnerships, which are playing a pivotal role in bringing fiber internet to underserved areas.
At Lumos, our goal is to reach 1 million homes over the next 5 years, and we’re proud to work with state and local governments to augment that financial impact and reach through grants, programs and partnerships.
Public-private partnerships (PPP) in the fiber internet industry combine government entities and private companies’ resources and expertise to create a more comprehensive, cost-effective, accessible and sustainable broadband solution. One of the key benefits is the sharing of financial burdens. Fiber is expensive, especially in rural areas with lower population densities. Government entities often have access to various resources, such as grants, subsidies, and rights of way, that can significantly reduce the cost and complexity of fiber network development, making them attractive partners.
We are encouraged by the growing interest to participate in these partnerships from both companies and municipalities. The more collaboration, the stronger the infrastructure will be for future generations. Many believe that fiber development is our generation’s most significant infrastructure innovation and our biggest challenge as we look to deploy it in an accessible and efficient manner.
These relationships are challenging. They include regulatory hurdles, the need for clear agreements, and ensuring that the partnerships benefit the community rather than just the private companies involved. Careful planning and ongoing oversight are needed to make these partnerships successful, which is why Lumos is proud to be a preferred partner for local municipalities across the Mid-Atlantic.
Public-private partnerships encourage competition among telecommunication providers, which is best for the community and our customers. It ensures they get the best technology at the best price and with as little interruption as possible.
Across the U.S., there are countless success stories of public-private partnerships, and Lumos is proud to be a part of them. In 2022, we partnered with Orange County, North Carolina, to bring ultra-high-speed fiber internet service to approximately 28,000 homes. The project was the most extensive fiber infrastructure partnership in N.C.’s history and reached 6,400 households with zero access to any broadband connection.
Lumos has utilized funds from the America Rescue Plan Act and the N.C. GREAT Program aims to provide funding for broadband deployment within unserved areas of the state. Other funding opportunities ahead include the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides $65 billion in funding for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).
We are one of the ~20 internet service providers in the U.S. working with the Affordable Connectivity Program, which gives eligible households a $30 monthly discount on their internet bills. Families who pair their ACP benefit with our $30 monthly high-speed 100 Mbps fiber internet plans will receive free internet access. Ongoing funding for this Program is critical. More than 20 million people have utilized this Program, but an estimated 90 million Americans lack proper broadband access due to financial constraints.
By pooling resources and leveraging government support, these collaborations make high-speed fiber internet access a reality for underserved and unserved communities.
As we move further into the digital age, these partnerships are critical. They are connecting communities and laying the foundation for a more equitable and prosperous future.
The impact of fiber internet in small towns and mid-markets goes far beyond faster and smoother streaming of your favorite Netflix show. It enables and enhances education, healthcare, economic development, careers, entertainment and overall quality of life.
Fiber can breathe new life into these communities.