The federal government’s efforts to expand high-speed internet access through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funding of $42.5 billion are facing a significant challenge: a severe shortage of fiber technicians. This shortage threatens to perpetuate the digital divide as internet service providers (ISPs) struggle to afford, hire, and train skilled workers.
Flume Internet, a fiber provider of gigabit services, recognizes the growing demand for fiber but needs help finding technicians due to limited availability and high costs. Construction crews are often booked months in advance, making it challenging for smaller ISPs like Flume to secure their services. Moreover, incumbent ISPs pay exorbitant prices for contracted work, creating tough competition for skilled labor.
Flume has taken alternative approaches to address the shortage, such as implementing training programs and hiring experienced construction leaders. The training period for fiber technicians is relatively short, typically lasting six to eight weeks, with most learning happening through hands-on field experience. Flume has collaborated with organizations like Block Power to train local individuals interested in working on fiber build-outs. While the market offers lucrative compensation for fiber technicians, there is generally a need for more motivation to pursue these infrastructure-related jobs.
Flume believes that the solution lies in educational initiatives but acknowledges that sustained funding from the government is necessary to keep training programs alive.
The CEO of Flume anticipates that a significant portion of the BEAD funding will be allocated to labor. Still, uncertainties remain regarding how each state will determine labor requirements for fiber build-outs. Despite the challenges, Flume remains committed to incentivizing training and full-time hiring, encouraging the industry to support and understand the importance of such programs.
The shortage of fiber technicians poses a substantial obstacle to bridging the digital divide, and government funding and support are crucial to address this issue. By investing in training programs and promoting motivation within the industry, there is an opportunity to meet the growing demand for high-speed internet services and narrow the digital divide.
While Kore-Tek focuses on providing engineering services to design, deploy, test, turn up, and manage these fiber networks, we’re also seeing a spike in demand for optical engineering services. We’re working with our fiber, reseller, and equipment manufacturing partners to continue hiring, training, and staffing our teams to provide these critical services as we see an increased demand for optical network engineers.
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