Winning a CAF II block in the upcoming auction is a priority for many co-ops and rural telecom providers right now. Building and expanding rural networks, however, can come with potential risks and questions for which these potential bid-winners are trying to plan. In an effort to erase rural connectivity concerns, 3-GIS offers software solutions that will help de-risk these companies' projects and eliminate the uncertainties behind bridging the digital divide.
Risk #1: The timeline
With the FCC requiring 40% of the service area to be connected within the first three years, there will be pressure on the winning providers to build their networks rapidly without sacrificing precision or potential profit.
Our solution: With 3-GIS|Prospector Planning, network planners can create a route to reach hundreds of demand points in a matter of minutes. Prospector looks across a variety of engineer-defined network variables such as existing infrastructure, regulations, and geographic barriers to prescribe a route at a fraction of the time of traditional, manual planning methods. In the past, adding Prospector to their design process has provided companies with a 34% time savings on average (1).
Prospector's speed of planning can ensure these winning companies will stay on track with the outlined FCC timeline, while also reducing potential engineering error, because let's face it, "computers are extremely fast, so when a task can be translated (by a human!) into an algorithm...a computer will typically accomplish it much more quickly and accurately than the average human" (2). Notice there is still an emphasis on having a human in the loop; Prospector simply allows for a computational speed increase, giving precious time back to companies.
Risk #2: The return on investment
Every provider wants to maximize the efficiency of their projects to increase profitability, but especially those building in rural America. Because of the risks they are taking on in these projects, rural telco providers will want to have a near-guarantee that their projects will be profitable and worth-while before they begin. This includes ensuring there is an adequate amount of locations listed in a specific block or area to warrant a fiber expansion build.
Our solution: The FCC has put together a rather extensive list of locations included in each block that is up for auction; however, this list is not exhaustive. There is a good possibility more locations lacking reliable connectivity exist than those included in the lists provided. With Prospector, winning companies can pull data that will allow them to locate those potentially unlisted revenue opportunities, and can plan their routes to include those as well - creating another avenue to increase their project's ROI.
Risk #3: The budget
Oklahoma State University associate professor Brian Whitacre said it best: "Despite the many improvements in technology over the years, laying new line for wired internet connections still requires a significant amount of manual labor. Companies must weigh the cost of every mile laid against the expected profits from those lines. This works against rural areas, with fewer potential customers per mile" (3). Companies will bid a very specific amount to connect these rural locations, and therefore receive a very specific subsidy for these builds, so staying on budget is of utmost importance.
Our solution: Because of the increase in route creation speed, companies who use Prospector see a great reduction in their engineering costs. Though an engineer is still a very important part of the process, Prospector eliminates the immensely time-consuming need to hand draw routes over and over each time a new barrier is discovered, saving providers enormous amounts of money not having to pay for that time.
Prospector creates rules-based routes, so if reducing the cost of building is the most important factor to these winning providers, Prospector will allocate the least cost route based on that specific rule. What does this mean practically speaking? Prospector will model a route to go around a costly construction barrier if it's more cost effective, even if it means the route itself will be longer. This estimation could be made by a human, of course, but the automation and certainty of this part of the process allows engineers to focus their efforts elsewhere - yet again, saving time and money. In fact, "in side-by-side engineering cost analysis," of a Prospector user's project, "the designs utilizing the automated optimized routing of fiber...as compared to the subjective traditional engineering method, were 28% more cost efficient to construct utilizing less fiber" (1).
Risk #4: The maintenance and reporting
In keeping with the FCC regulations, bid-winning companies will have to provide status reports of their projects to ensure they are still on schedule. Being able to easily track the project's build-out will be an important ability for these companies to possess.
Our solution: Prospector gives these providers the ability to pull reports with a few quick clicks so they can stay on top of their project status and ensure they are reporting accurately to both the FCC and other potential stakeholders.
Using Prospector to connect America can provide the most efficient and cost-effective fiber network management for these rural communities. It takes the guesswork out of budgeting with cost-optimized, accurate bill of materials lists and construction documents, and allows companies to track their overall progress in seconds. Want to learn more about these great advantages? Contact us!
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