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Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD)

With over $42 billion of funding in play for broadband infrastructure in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The goal of this is to get a reliable high-speed internet access, to everyone either Unserved or UnderServed. To be considered unserved, an area has to lack a 25 megabyte download speed three-megabyte upload speed connection. In order to be unserved, it’s an area that’s in order to be underserved, it’s an area that’s not unserved but it lacks a 120 connection. Any network, the bare minimum standards set by statute for a network
that’s funded with BEAD funding, that network must provide a minimum of 100 megabytes download speed, 20 megabytes upload speed once it’s completed

BEAD program, is a program that devotes right around 42 and a half billion dollars to get all Americans online by funding partnerships. This is about partnerships between states and territories, partnerships between the Federal
Government and the states and territories partnerships between the states and territories and local governments and stakeholders. We’re going to build infrastructure, where it needs to go. We’re going to ensure that community anchor institutions are connected and we’re going to ensure that significant resources are put into digital equity.

Research conducted in 2021 by the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) estimates that the telecom industry requires an addition of over 205,000 new jobs to construct, operate and maintain the new fiber broadband networks to be built across the United States over the next five years. Federal agencies understand the need to invest in telecommunications and have authorized funding from BEAD to be applied to the workforce and job training, as current fiber technician training programs are few and not enough to meet demand. Vendors, service providers and construction contractors in the fiber industry have stepped up to train future technicians. However, each organization has varying standards on the type and quality of instruction a new hire would receive before being placed in the field under supervision.

FBA has created an industry-standard method built on best practices, working with leaders in the sector to create and foster a formalized training course with classroom and hands-on experience. The FBA OpTIC Path: Optical Telecom Installer Certification is a 144-hour instructor-led registered apprenticeship with the Department of Labor that provides equal time in the classroom and hands-on lab work. To create the curriculum, experts throughout the fiber industry have designed the course to teach future technicians the skills and knowledge of installing, splicing, testing and maintaining fiber to the home (FTTH) and fiber to the building (FTTB) systems. Skills work in the lab includes working directly with fiber, tools and equipment and allows students to identify breaks and conduct troubleshooting. The goal of the curriculum is for graduates to hit the ground running with minimal supervision. The course also allows future technicians to get early exposure to the type of job they may want to specialize in, like outside plant work or home installation.

FBA currently partners with community colleges, vocational programs, veterans’ programs, training facilities and service providers to offer the course, and is looking to expand further into organizations that can benefit from workforce training. At present, OpTIC Path is being offered or considered by over 40 colleges, learning institutions and employers in 32 states and two countries outside of the U.S. FBA’s goal is to make OpTIC Path available in all 56 states and territories, partnering with stakeholders in each region to connect graduates with employers and quickly fill positions across the country.

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