The Divide: Conexon's Jonathan Chambers on rural fiber, BEAD and the future of ACP

This week: Jonathan Chambers, partner at Conexon, joins to discuss Conexon's progress in deploying rural fiber, plus his concerns about the $42 billion BEAD program, how to save the ACP and more.

Nicole Ferraro, Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast

April 8, 2024

At a Glance

  • Background on Conexon and the company's progress (01:50)
  • Why Chambers called BEAD a 'politician's idea of digital divide program' (16:37)
  • Chambers wants the FCC to start an expedited proceeding on saving the ACP through Lifeline (32:35)

This episode features Jonathan Chambers, partner at Conexon, which is a company that partners with electric cooperatives to build rural fiber networks.

Conexon, which was one of the biggest winners in the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) and the Connect America Fund II (CAF II), has completed more than 20 electric co-op fiber projects in the eight-plus years it's been around, with another 20 slated for completion in 2024. Most recently, the company announced wrapping up its fiber build for Middle Georgia EMC, for which Conexon's ISP arm, Conexon Connect, will deliver service.

Skepticism about BEAD

In addition to catching up on Conexon's progress, we discuss Chambers' concerns about the federal government's $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and why he's skeptical it will achieve its ultimate goal of closing the digital divide.

We also discuss a petition he filed with the FCC urging the agency to take steps to roll the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) into Lifeline before the benefit expires next month, how that would work – and more. (You can subscribe to Chambers' weekly newsletter mentioned in this episode here.)

Here are a few topics we cover:

  • Background on Conexon and the company's progress (01:50)

  • How Conexon stays ahead of labor and supply challenges, and why Chambers isn't too concerned that BEAD will create additional shortages (11:30)

  • Why he called BEAD a 'politician's idea of digital divide program' (16:37)

  • What he would have done differently in drafting the BEAD program (22:30)

  • Why Chambers filed a petition for the FCC to start an expedited proceeding on Lifeline and the ACP, and his thoughts on the future of that program (32:35)

Related:How the FCC could save the Affordable Connectivity Program

For a lightly edited transcript, click the caption button on the podcast player.

Read more about:

ACPThe Divide

About the Author(s)

Nicole Ferraro

Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast, Light Reading

Nicole covers broadband, policy and the digital divide. She hosts The Divide on the Light Reading Podcast and tracks broadband builds in The Buildout column. Some* call her the Broadband Broad (*nobody).

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