Open Source for Open Broadband: More Choices for Communities


AUGUST, 2017

Open Source

Open Broadband

Open source is everywhere, as organizations including the Linux Foundation continue to launch new communities (in IoT, blockchain and more) and as networking visionaries establish organizations like the Open Networking User Group (ONUG) and host events like the Open Networking Summit, where earlier this year, Greg Whelan spoke on the topic of “Open Source for Open Broadband Acces.” Principal at Grewale Insights, Mr. Whelan took the audience through a compelling story (which you can learn more about by viewing his slides here).

Whelan sees unequal access to broadband as causing “dis-equilibrium,” and looks at broken access making it too difficult to expand access to broadband for all, an admirable, global goal.

He points out that Local Loops account for 15% of the cost of building a typical broadband network, and sees overbuilding in some areas, and underbuilding in others as a result.

“It’s not about bitrates or technologies,” Whelan says, whether it is 25 Mbit/s down “It’s critical infrastructure for community survival; rural broadband isn’t broken, it’s just never been fixed.” He is passionate about the digital divide getting wider, and quotes Natalie Roper, executive director of Generation West Virginia as saying“We’re losing a generation of highly educated, skilled workers and entrepreneurs that are leaders in the digital economy. They have moved to other states that have invested in high-speed internet infrastructure.”

Whelan’s vision for what broadband brings to communities, beyond the standard communications services debated for the last few decades, is vast and includes not just distance learning, but experiential learning; telemedice to monitor the health and safety of the frial and elderly; traffic and environmental management and control systems and more. He gives a shot out to Google Fiber for forcing incumbents to act by proving that the current broadband ecosystem is busted.

Pushing for, and successfully implementing broadband initiatives is not for the faint of heart, according to Whelan. There are real business and physical and operational challenges, rights of way, private vs public utility trends, onerous local, state and federal regulations and – of course – politics.

Then there is the “real real” world which Whelan describes as “lightning, floods, radon gas, backhoe fades and squirrel chews.”

Then there is “the math.” Whelan explaines, that there is generally one central office (CO) to support 10K+ residential subscribers – 10K+ mobile subscribers – 1K+ enterprise customers; there are 1000s of COs, the service providers gateway to its customers. These COs are service provider’s “gateways” to their customers and a great vantage point for a service provider to grow their business.

But how can they plan – and make the business case?

And how can communities negotiate with service providers in a way that enables them to deliver high quality, cost effective services to their citizens?

As many municipalities take the bull by the horns, they are becoming the main service provider for their community, retailing broadband they are buying wholesale from Tier Ones, CLECs, even satellite and spectrum sellers.

In these communities, elected officials and agencies are empowered to move, and find creative ways to ensure their citizens are not victims of the digital divide.

Open Broadband, ultimately, is about opening up people’s minds to innovations and disruptions. Spend time going through Whelan’s presentation and you’ll get as excited as we do by his passion for changing the game and creating true open broadband access, with providioning fixed and wireless broadband in a simpler way, managing wholesale-centric QoS and security.

Open Source – and standards – are a huge part of this with complete stack thinking, shared investment, more rapid innovation, and shared upside when equipment and systems work more easily togther. We agree it is time for Open Broadband and Open Source approaches to accelerate it! That’s why we’ve invented the Open Broadband Gateway, which you can learn more about by downloading our data sheet, or contact us at

Hats off to Greg Whelan and others who are no longer willing to wait for the digital divide to narrow – it’s high time to cross the chasm and build millions of broadband bridges.

More from the Network by Design Blog

Making a More Exciting Case for Rural Broadband

The Farm Bill and RUS can improve a lot more than agriculture across America, but with the growth and value of precision farming – innovation in agriculture, including improving yields and profits, can be supported by investment in high-speed broadband networks.

read more