May 29, 2020 by Kevin Kuo

What Digital Divide? The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and the Far-Reaching E3-2 Connects Everyone with everyPON


According to the FCC, there are still over 21 million people in rural America without access to high speed internet and broadband services today. Closing what has been labeled as the “digital divide” is one of the top priorities within the FCC. This demarcation is having adverse effects on the economic growth as well as the education and healthcare provisions provided to families within those rural areas. The FCC has taken aggressive actions to rapidly expand broadband access to those underserved areas across America, such as in the case with the recently established Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). This program will spend up to $20.4 billion to bring broadband to your doorstep in two significant ways. First, it hopes to close the book on the proverbial digital divide saga once and for all—RDOF prefers FTTH designs over lower speed DSL and fixed-wireless technologies. Second, the RDOF framework encourages smaller service providers to participate by removing the major barriers to entry that many of those same providers faced in the past.

With the RDOF auction scheduled for October 22nd, the biggest question that rural service providers will have to address now is how, and in what way, will they deliver those high bandwidth broadband services to their subscriber’s doorstep? The answer lies with the Intelligent Access EDGE solution, specifically the AXOS E3-2 Intelligent PON Node. It’s deployment flexibility and “deploy anywhere” design dramatically reduces costs while accelerating your construction and service activation capabilities. The E3-2 is a compact, self-contained product designed to be installed in various outside plant locations such as on a strand, on a pole, or at ground level in a pedestal. The E3-2 is temperature hardened and does not require active cooling so it represents a great option to reach areas where it’s not economically feasible to deploy fiber or build out a cabinet.

With the addition of the NG201 XGS-PON interface module, the E3-2 can now also deliver XGS-based services to virtually any location, even those environmentally challenged serving areas that you’ve been trying to reach for years. Every module in the E3-2 can be easily and quickly removed and replaced in the field, providing a completely field serviceable solution. Additionally, this allows you to migrate your network from one PON technology to another without replacing every module, enabling a cost-effective and future-proof solution. When deploying the E3-2 solution, you can realize up to a 50% savings over the cost of a traditional cabinet-based solution while also reducing deployment time from weeks to days since you no longer have to deal with land acquisition issues or construction permits.

Since the auction is scheduled for late October and the corresponding application deadlines in the late June/mid-July timeframe, interested service providers need to take action now by completing their feasibility studies before the aforementioned milestones. Calix has been at the forefront in communicating the FCC’s program plans and has developed a dedicated RDOF Funding web page to assist service providers with the necessary details and tools to help streamline the submission process. Calix also offers office hours and consultation sessions for customers to discuss the RDOF basics and ask any questions they may have here.