How Automation and APIs Help Fast-track Business Broadband to Rural Areas

How Automation and APIs Help Fast-track Business Broadband to Rural Areas

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High-speed connectivity is crucial for economic growth. Most businesses come to a standstill when their internet goes out. But for many residents and businesses in rural America, high-speed broadband isn’t even available. Now the U.S. government is stepping in by providing carriers access to funds that will help bring high-speed internet to these underserved areas. That includes the recent Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).

While this is a giant leap in the right direction, there are significant hurdles that will need to be overcome to successfully manage such a massive infrastructure project. Communication Service Providers (CSPs) will be better able to meet tight timelines, maintain control over costs, and improve productivity by leveraging some of the latest API-enabled tools, processes, and technologies to help them succeed.

Those tools include the MEF LSO Sonata APIs, which enable the frictionless inter-carrier commerce of business connectivity. They can help spur rural business growth by enabling the faster, more cost-efficient rollout of new broadband services.

But before I dive into that, let me share some of the challenges rural communities and businesses have been facing.

How Does the Lack of Broadband Impact the Growth of Local Economies and Rural Business Development?

Countless small businesses and communities are missing out on innovations in healthcare, education, entertainment, financial services, retail, and other industries. Sixty-six percent of rural small businesses say poor internet or cell phone connectivity negatively impacts their business, and 38 percent say they can’t find employees with the right digital skills in their area. This is a chicken and egg problem—if your community doesn’t provide access to digital services, how can workers develop the right digital skills?

The economic impacts of the digital divide run deep:

  • Digital economy workers, on average, earn nearly twice as much per year as the average worker in the United States.
  • Lack of access to online tools and digital services has cost rural areas 360,000 full-time jobs and $140 billion in contributions to the U.S. economy between 2019 and 2022.
  • Unlocking the digital potential for rural small businesses across the country could add $47 billion to the U.S. GDP per year.

Fixing the digital divide will help create new business opportunities. Rural businesses will be able to access cloud computing and IoT solutions, and large enterprises would be more willing to open branch locations in rural communities.

The Rural Broadband Gold Rush Has Begun

The rural broadband initiative is shaping up to be one of the biggest infrastructure projects since the Federal Highway Act of 1956, which spurred the suburbanization of the U.S., created a dramatic spike in domestic tourism, and led to the birth of thousands of businesses like Walmart and FedEx. RDOF is a $20.4 billion fund, but it’s just one of many.

Just like the Federal Highway Act, whose impact went far beyond the actual highways, RDOF and other government-backed funds will create a similar domino effect that could impact rural businesses, consumers, and economies in ways we can’t even imagine.

The Hard Work is Just Beginning—Let’s Make Sure We Start on the Right Foot

Now that the investment funds have begun to arrive, the real work begins. Rural telcos, mobile operators, internet service providers, managed service providers, satellite companies, utilities, and others, will all be descending upon rural America to bring high-speed connectivity to its towns, farms, and outlying communities. How do we approach this massive project in a way that optimizes the results—and the available resources?

A good first step is to create a way for all these various players to communicate and do business together. It doesn’t make sense to overbuild and duplicate efforts at the taxpayers’ expense by having multiple providers rolling out fiber to the same business locations. And conversely carriers who already have fiber in the region need a way to communicate that to other carriers—so they can more easily sell the services they provide.

Carriers benefit by working together, buying and selling wholesale connectivity when and where it’s needed. But many still depend on spreadsheets and emails as the primary means for doing this type of business. Without the right automated workflow tools, order errors and other bottlenecks can slow deployments to a crawl.  With all the advancements we’ve made, should it still take six months for a business to get an internet connection?

In a recent online poll (Figure 1 below), Neustar, a TransUnion Company, together with Light Reading, asked if carriers were satisfied with their current wholesale ordering process. Ninety-two percent said they either had room for improvement or were really struggling. This issue doesn’t just impact rural carriers—it’s a challenge for everyone, but nowhere else is the need more profound.

Government agencies funding these initiatives have high expectations, with milestones and deadlines that carriers will be expected to meet. Costs and delivery timetables are already facing headwinds from global inflation issues and labor and supply chain shortages, so anything that can help reduce these impacts should be given top consideration.

Figure 1: Online poll conducted by Neustar and Light Reading – September 2022.

Online poll conducted by Neustar and Light Reading - September 2022

Closing the Digital Divide Takes a Villageand the Right APIs

Benjamin Franklin once said, “The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.” That statement has stood the test of time, and I believe Ben would be a big believer in the work MEF has been doing to improve how carriers do business together, including the LSO Sonata APIs.

As a MEF member, Neustar firmly supports MEF’s efforts and has even pre-built the MEF Sonata APIs into its intercarrier workflow automation solution (Universal Order Connect, or UOC for short) so that carriers can begin leveraging the benefits right away, without tying up their own internal IT resources.

Simplifying access to the right tools, technologies and processes will help all the organizations involved in closing America’s digital divide deliver better results, faster. It’s important work—let’s make sure we do it right.

Learn More

Learn more about Universal Order Connect (UOC).

Learn more about MEF LSO Sonata APIs.

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John Denemark

Senior Vice President, Carrier Provisioning | TransUnion

John is a dynamic leader with a 20-year tenure at TransUnion, formerly Neustar, where he leads the Carrier Provisioning business, which includes a complete suite of automated products and services addressing carriers’ off-net provisioning needs. John has extensive experience in product management, operations, development, service delivery, customer care, and professional services. John has been an ISO 9000 lead auditor and is certified in Rummler-Brache process improvement methodology, Cost of Quality and CMMI. He holds a BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a master’s in economics from The Johns Hopkins University.