Lori brought more than 20 years of experience as a telecommunications attorney to Nokia when she began leading the company’s broadband policy and funding strategy group in January of 2022.
Prior to joining Nokia, she served as the director of commercial and market development for Render Networks between 2020 and 2022, and the director of broadband development at Vantage Point Solutions from 2016 to 2020.
Lori received her JD from University of Baltimore School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from American University.
Jase Wilson: Yo, Broadband Grants community. How are you doing today on this lovely Friday? We're here with a Broadband legend, Lori Adams. He's currently at Nokia leading awesome government Broadband policy stuff, but has a really deep and extensive background and has done a ton for the broadband space. So, Lori, it's a real honor to get to hang out with you. Welcome to the Broadband Grants community.
Lori Adams: Thanks, Chase. It's a pleasure to be here today. Although broadband legend makes me feel really old, so. [chuckle]
Jase: I don't know, you can be a young legend.
Lori: Alright. That's fine.
Jase: If anybody can do it, you can, okay? But you're are a senior director of Broadband policy and funding strategy at Nokia. I'd love if you could tell the community a little bit more about what you do, a little bit about your background, even take it back to BTOP days, right?
Jase: 'Cause you did some great work back then, so.
Lori: All right. Well, I guess the... We'll start with the legend piece there, I've been in the industry for well over 20 years, and most recently, I... Well, I'll start with where I am now. So, I'm at Nokia, I'm the Senior Director of Broadband Policy and Funding strategy, I sit in the government affairs team, and really focus on helping the company build an internal and an external strategy for broadband programs, federal funding programs, sales enablement. Supporting customers who wanna participate in the Broadband funding landscape, and as you know, there's just a mere $100 billion worth of federal funding that is flowing into the marketplace. And so there's, it's a full-time job to keep up with all of the different programs requirements, what the states are doing. So that's really what my job is, and I've gotten to this point. I started my career at Comcast in the early 2000s, and then shifted over to local government for some time where, to your reference on BTOP, I worked for Howard County in Maryland at the time where I co-wrote and directed the Maryland BTOP ICBN program, which was almost a $100 million middle mile program. And from start to finish...
Jase: Which at the time was huge, right? That was big deal back in the day.
Lori: Yeah. I mean, $4 billion felt like more money than the 100 billion we have now. It was groundbreaking.
Jase: Is that because of inflation, is that a backhand inflation jab? [laughter]
Lori: Yeah, I think. Yeah. Well, that and we were in a deep recession, and so.
Jase: Oh, yeah.
Lori: The 4 billion really like, was a major impact, made major impact in the economy, what we were trying to do, connecting broadband. And of course broadband was a... It's not a... It wasn't a new concept, but it was a new concept for government, it was a new concept for communities to be able to take a look at the programs that were out there and say, "Hey, you know what? We wanna participate. We wanna figure out how we can do this." So, there was a lot of... It was groundbreaking in a lot of ways.
Jase: That is awesome. And even better, you're also a mom. And yeah, you're married to an insanely talented dude that I happen to know, Douglas Adams, not the Hitchhiker's Guide author, but the other one, more famous one. Who I met through Jeff Gavlinski and the Mountain Connect crew. But, really awesome to have you on, Lori. So thank you for making time. And I wanna dive in, we've got some hard hitting questions, we'll save those for later. First up is a softball from Mike Fallon who wants to know what brought you to broadband. Like why did you get into it in the first place? So you gave us some background and context on your career, right? You get started with BTOP but like why?
Lori: So I was working as a cable administrator for Howard County. That was my official position. And as cable administrator, I was helping to oversee the cable franchises that the county had with cable providers. But right at this time was when the BTOP program rolled out, and we started having conversations with our local government compadres in other counties and neighboring jurisdictions. About "Hey, how can we do this? How can we participate?" And so it was sort of a natural nexus from cable administration and broadband, and then very quickly, I shifted over into doing broadband full time. So I just kind of stepped into it.
Lori: As someone who was... It was logical for me to focus on that, and I had a colleague at the time, Ira Levy who was the CIO for the county and he was really spearheading those initial conversations that we were having with counties and there were some initial working groups that were happening around broadband. And we just kind of worked together to pull everything together. So I just sort of... It wasn't stepped into it with given the opportunity at the time. And so that's how I got into Broadband.
Jase: Dig it. And then from Scott Woods, he has one that we're gonna save for later actually. [laughter]
Lori: Oh, oh. [laughter]
Jase: From David McGarry over Broadband Breakfast, are there any major differences between how the state governments and federal governments approach Broadband funding? So you've seen it from down at the scale of Maryland, right? You've been studying this stuff for the federal, and you know these upcoming programs, a lot of them are gonna relate very heavily to the state broadband offices. And there are several state broadband directors in the AMA audience RSVP today. So yeah, I would love to hear more about your thoughts about that.
Lori: Yeah, a great question. So over the last eight, nine years, and really, the state broadband programs kind of started with Minnesota. Minnesota was one of the first states, that may not have... They may have been the first state to establish their border to border broadband grant program, and I think it was around 2013, 2014 timeframe. And that kind of started the momentum for states to take a look at this and see what they could do to set aside funding and start to roll out grant programs with their own state funds. And there's a number of states that have participated in and have established grant programs, Illinois, Indiana.
Lori: Colorado, Minnesota, et cetera. Well, now we're faced with all of this federal money. And for the first time the federal dollars are being pushed to the states for distribution. And this is completely new, right? The BTOP days, you applied to NTIA for funding. And they're still administering Middle Mile program, tribal programs, so they're still doing that function. But the BEAD program is so massive in size that they are distributing the responsibility for the implementation across 50 states. And one thing the BEAD NOFO makes clear is that, yes, there are federal program requirements. There's a lot of requirements in there that states need to manage, but they're also enabling the states to provide their own flavor and really help define what the needs are for their state, as a part of this project. And that is really what you see with those early state programs and even BTOP, where the states have said, "Okay, this is what we want to accomplish in our state. This is what we see our needs as." And I think you're seeing a lot of that bleed into these federal programs that are now being pushed to all states. So there's a lot of lessons learned as to what was done previously and how grant programs were set up and then adopting that on a national basis.
Jase: Yeah. You sound like you know your stuff. I mean, I threw that out there, sometimes add the last second, you had it on point. So my guess is you're pretty versed in this stuff. So, hopefully in this AMA, there's a bunch of questions that get into the nitty gritty of these programs because people have questions, right? And you've... One of the few people in broadband that's actually seen it from all those sides. Right? So that's an interesting... You're able to zoom around and spin around and see it from a bunch of different perspectives and empathize with the different roles and perspectives. So let's dig into those things, right? So Mike Dunn, community member asks a really important question is how many locations will actually be eligible by the time BEAD rolls around, right? And we can get into the mechanics of what the hell is happening, to lead to the eligibility and follow up questions. But with all the state programs, reconnect, RDOF, capital projects, et cetera, will remaining unserved locations be too scattered or cost too much to serve even with BEAD? That's really interesting. After Interagency coordination subtracts out everything else, what's left and what does that look like? That's a really good question.
Lori: Yeah, it is a good question. I'm kind of curious to know the answer to that myself because there's so many moving parts right now. It's hard to get clarity on exactly what locations are we talking about that either haven't been serviced to date, they fit in the unserved or underserved category to date.
Lori: And also aren't part of a CPF program, of a state program, of reconnect program that are in progress. Because any awards that have gone out through all of these current programs but hasn't been built yet, won't be captured in the fabric. So, it's kind of like you have to do this dust settling exercise to really uncover exactly the locations that we're talking about reaching with these programs. I mean, I've seen some states, like the state of New Hampshire when they had their CPF program approved by Treasury, the press release said that they were gonna be reaching 50% of their unserved locations with the CPF funds. So, New Hampshire they must, which is my home state by the way, must have a good grip on exactly the locations that they need to reach. But at this point, it's really hard to see that on a map. So yeah, so I don't know. I mean, that's gonna be a challenge to resolve because obviously, you're not gonna be giving out BEAD funding to reach locations that are already caught up in other programs. So I don't know how that's gonna be resolved.
Jase: Did New Hampshire... Remember the guy on the rock that the face fell off?
Lori: Oh, that was very sad. The profile now...
Jase: Yeah. It was a sad day for New Hampshire.
Lori: Old man on the mountain.
Jase: Well, in a similar analogy, did New Hampshire shoot itself in the foot by saying that, "Hey, we're gonna cover 50%." 'Cause then like, when it comes time to doll out BEAD, which is its own zero sum game at the national, and territory and tribal level, like did they say like, "Oh yeah, no, no, we only are gonna get half." Or is that the right way to think about it? Right? You've seen it from all these perspectives?
Lori: That's a great question. I mean, well, so the purposes for BEAD say that in priority, they're reaching... The purpose is to reach unserved, then underserved, and anchors. And then you can utilize your funding for other purposes, for other more digital equity adoption type of programs, if you get through those other three top line priorities. And we know every state is guaranteed $100 million because that's what it says in the legislation. So, is New Hampshire shooting itself in the foot? I don't know. I mean, it's a small state, so they may have a plan, they're developing plans for how to reach but we don't know how many underserved locations they have. We don't know how many harder to serve locations are left either.
Jase: So is it... What's the math there, Lori? Like at the national level after, I think they're calling it fabric. I think, [laughter] nevermind. After that, right? It's like, hey, this state gets this many, and this state gets that many and this territory gets this many and that territory gets that many. Does does it go all unserved first, right? You see what I'm saying? All the states, so all the states have a game theory, their incentive, if so, is like all of our locations are unserved. Like, look at all these unserved locations over in our State. And the other states are like, well, look at the unserved in our state. And then there's a bunch of challenge processes and whatnot. So, is that the way it works? And if so, did New Hampshire be like, our top thing is we took it off the table, or we cut it by half, right? Or is it like, no, New Hampshire is gonna get this amount irrespective of other States having more unserved or anything like that? It's gonna go sort of like state by state.
Lori: Yeah. The allocation formula is based on unserved locations in a State right over...
Jase: Within the State.
Lori: Across the United States. And then I think a State is guaranteed a minimum of $100 million. Now, if your allocation doesn't give you more than $100 million, then you're done. But then you can use that $100 million to reach the unserved, what's remaining of the unserved, underserved and anchors and adoptions. So I think that's kind of how it's gonna work out. But how that allocation actually happens is where... That is a 2023 question.
Jase: Yeah. Still under construction right? There's still time for these States to think about, what are they gonna do, right? Okay. Yeah. That's good. I have questions about that myself too, coming up. But let's keep going. This is really fun. Scott has a question. Scott Woods, former NTIA is here at the team already. He has a question. From what we hear, fabric will be a mess. I personally haven't heard that, but according to Scott. Yeah, I'm kidding. I've heard it many times, in fact there was a really interesting eye opening workshop on mapping with folks from NTIA, folks from FCC and lots of deep broadband mapping experts in DC a few weeks ago for the Shelby's Internet's 10th Conference. And I connected about this and you had some really awesome thoughts about it. You've had some thoughts about this before, but this question is like, for what we hear, fabric will be a mess. Based on your expert experience, do you have any calming words of wisdom? Because it is a nerve-wracking thing to think that the nation's official map, it could be not that great.
Lori: So I am not and Nokia is not a provider. So we have not had to access the fabric, right? The providers that have submitted data and had to submit data by September 30th were the ones that had to access the fabric and submit all their information. I'm also not part of this, privy to a state or local government that is working with a fabric in uploading both challenges and those processes. So I haven't really seen any of this. Sometime this month, we'll supposedly see the maps for the first time. And I will say this, that it is a very complicated process. All of these different elements are very complicated. There's a lot of people that are confused by the rules. I know the FCC has a great help center and we have heard feedback from customers and others who have had to call the help center, that they're very informative.
Lori: It was a very positive experience. But I think we'll have to see right that it's kind of... 'Cause we haven't had a look yet at what's been at the published, at what the published maps will look like, the initial publishing. But we have to keep in mind too that it's gonna be a living document and it's gonna be updated and improved upon as time goes on. It's going to become the biannual reporting mechanism for providers. They're gonna phase out the 4-77 data and focus on the fabric. Then you're gonna have the challenge process, the availability challenge process that kicks off. And individuals, participants in that presumably will help improve the accuracy of the maps as well. So, it remains to be seen how this process will work itself out but it is a complex issue.
Jase: I found that calming knowing there's a process. It's been thought through, the FCC is listening, it's doing what it can to help with the hotline, the helpline. So there's hope is what I hear, even if it's like the initial cut is gonna be maybe a little... But they always knew that, right?
Lori: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Jase: In a way, it's like a possible job right? Like you said, it's very complex. It can be done objectively from source of truths, ground truth reporting in the form of active measurements that are verified from locations. But that misses availability, that misses addresses that weren't self reporting and there are no perfect ways to do it and they're doing their best.
Lori: Right. Yeah. It's a enormous challenge to take on something like this with all of the different levels of complexity, so.
Jase: Yeah. Well, thanks for those words.
Lori: Stay tuned.
Jase: This is awesome. Stay tuned for more. You said the end of this month, right? We got some guidance there from the allies at FCC at the Shelby AnchorNets. Check out their article on Eight Things we Learned, it's a really interesting piece, but it was really eye opening, but they did pledge like let's get it out the door by end of November. So we're placing bets inside of REDI and Broadway Money on... Is it like Thanksgiving Eve?
Lori: The Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Jase: Is it? Yeah. Is it post Thanksgiving? What's the eve equivalent on the day after a holiday? There's like Christmas Eve. It's like, well what about the 26th? That's a day of, you know, shouldn't really necessarily be trying to lift too many heavy objects that day, 'cause you probably ate a ton of food. Right? So that day, is it Thanksgiving Eve, is it Thanksgiving, right? We're placing bets on when the timing, on when the actual thing will come out. So I don't wanna reveal how much money anybody's put on it or who has which positions because then we wouldn't want them to foil it by saying surprise, we're actually doing it tomorrow. 'Cause tomorrow's technically in November the last I checked.
Lori: Yep, it could be anytime. Yeah.
Jase: Well, let's keep rolling. Lori, this is awesome. I think you can hear my boy Wafer screaming outside. Audience, community, very sorry.
Lori: No, I can't hear him. You're good.
Jase: Okay. I don't know if you can, I might have to go do some daddy duty here and there, [laughter] shakes out. We'll hope for the best on that, but I might have you ask your own questions for a few minutes. We'll see how it goes. I have a question for you though, Lori. One of the things I admired about the stuff that you had done prior and prior roles is you had helped to build out broadband feasibility studies and you've built, when people sit around and look at broadband feasibility studies, they'll go and study feasibility studies that you've put together in your work, in various points in your career. It's like this stuffle composition of how everybody needs to come around the table and approach to the broadband reality of a place. And so I'm curious, what is the role of the feasibility study? And then can we talk about this broadband audit concept? Right? That's like the ability to try to bundle as much of the broadband feasibility study into a tool that somebody that's interested can just click a button and do all the magic stuff that used to lead efforts that take weeks or months, so.
Lori: Great, Yeah. So I did all of the feasibility study work with communities pre-pandemic, which...
Lori: Pre pandemic, which is important to notice because after the BTOP era and before the pandemic communities were really interested in advancing the broadband capabilities in their towns. They wanted to know more. They wanted to know more. And basically the purpose at that time of a feasibility study was to figure out what the problem was in the local level, examine it, kind of put a micro... Put a lens on it and say, "Okay, what are the problems we're having?" Because there's three types, there's three reasons why you don't have adequate broadband availability in your community. The first is access, physical access. You just don't have the infrastructure in your location to support high speed broadband. The second reason is accessibility. You have the physical plant, but it's too costly or it's vulnerable populations who can't afford broadband services and so you don't have it. And the third reason is you have the infrastructure and you have the accessibility, but you don't have the adoption. People just weren't as concerned with adopting technology in their household for whatever reason. And so...
Jase: They didn't need to. Yeah.
Lori: They didn't need to, or they chose to be off the grid or they're older adults who just don't understand how to make technology work. And so they just didn't pick it up for themselves. So the purpose of a feasibility study was to really drill down on those three things and ascertain what the real problems were, how to fix the problems, and how much do the problems cost, how to resolve them, and finding a plan forward. And so a feasibility study could encompass everything from doing and should encompass everything from doing stakeholder interviews, meetings, outreach, some residential and business surveys and focus groups, an assessment of the infrastructure and what services you have with the providers that are there. And then looking forward, what are some solutions both on a network architecture standpoint and then also on programmatic levels.
Lori: Do we need to do some broadband adoption programs here or some training or education? And so that was really the purpose of the feasibility studies. And I worked with communities all across the United States in some really, really rural areas that I have actually followed. And in the last several years, a lot of those communities have built networks now. So the purpose for that study was to figure out those problems, find a path forward, and then go and then do it. And a bigger part of that too was are there any local champions that can help shepherd this through? This is all pre-pandemic. So you have to find those local champions who says, "You know what? I'm willing to put a stake in the ground and say, you know what? We really do need to do this, we need to engage in a public-private partnership, or we need to bond for $8 million to help build a middle mile network in our area, in our town." So you need to have those local champions. And up until the point when the lockdown happened in March of 2020, there were still communities who were downplaying the data of feasibility study or downplaying the need. This is a true story. I literally sat in on a city council meeting on March 9th of 2020.
Jase: Yeah. That's pandemic eve.
Lori: Yeah. And they were putting forth, there was a citizen's advisory committee that put forth a proposal for a number of different options for the city to consider. And at the end of the day, the city council rejected all of the options. And some of them were, at this point were just exploratory. They didn't commit any city funds to it. And the one comment that really stuck out to me is one of the city council members said, you know what? She's like, "I'm not really concerned about residential broadband, because if residents need broadband, they can go to the library." And this was... Three days later, the libraries were shut down, the whole world shut down, and everybody was home. And I thought, geez, that is amazing to me, just on the Pandemic Eve to have that comment. And that community now is actually moving forward with public-private partnership.
Jase: Oh, hey.
Lori: So I think that they learned something from the pandemic, but I mean, the pandemic changed everything. There are some rural communities that lost 30% of their kids in the digital ether because they just didn't have access at home. So the pandemic changed everything.
Jase: You keep coming back to that, Lori, and I think you're right. So there's a pre-pandemic, post-pandemic reality to the broadband industry. And it's different now in the wake of, hopefully in the wake of Covid. Who knows what it does next or if there's a new one. It seems like the conditions are set for future episodes that relate, in nature and scale and scope and impact, to the one that we just experienced as a world. But that's an interesting framing. Things are different now, the world's different specifically. You referenced it a few times, but that conversation that crystallized in your mind, it's like that's just stuff that you were fighting against. The kind of crap that's like, not able to empathize kinds of thinking of folks that didn't know they needed it, didn't know what it was gonna do, what it meant for folks that don't have it, which is hard to project into if you do have it, but now it's different. That's off the table. What else is different about the world? Is it AC and DC? No. BC and AC, Before Covid, after Covid, what do you do there?
Lori: I think so. I mean, because you still need to have that local champion. You still need to have a plan for...
Jase: I have a plan.
Lori: Result. But you really no longer need to prove need. I think we're past the time. We're past time where we say, oh, well, and I hate this phrase, and I know it's used, overused in our industry, which is broadband is no longer a luxury. Well, I don't know if broadband was ever a luxury. It was just affordable to some people and available to some people. We're at the point now where we get it, everybody needs high speed broadband. Everybody needs access. And so you don't have to prove need anymore. You don't have to spend time on extolling the virtues of broadband and all the things, awesome things you can do with it. I think we're past that point. Now it's we have this astronomical amount of funding and we just need to figure out the smartest way to reach all of these places that don't have broadband.
Jase: There you go.
Lori: So you kind of have to...
Jase: Just to clear it.
Jase: Check. Okay. I really like that framing. Lori, I think that you've, in the last 10 minutes, crystallized the sort of way to approach it, the buckets of problems, the thought process and then specifically what you still need versus what you don't necessarily need in this day and age. It's not whether it's necessary kind of situation. So it's jump into the feasibility and get into the planning. So you have a question from Sarah Lai Stirland of the community, director of digital community here. Lori, for local government officials who feel intimidated by embarking on a feasibility study. How would one even get started? What would you recommend and what are the simple first steps?
Lori: Yeah, you hear that a lot. You see that a lot because there's... It's a time intensive endeavor. But as we were just saying, right, so what should you do now? What constitutes a feasibility study now and really it comes down to data. And Jase, I think to your point earlier about the broadband audit, that is exactly the type of thing that communities need to have is really just a snapshot, a dashboard snapshot of what's happening, what's going on in their community, the numbers.
Jase: The numbers. And those can be generated pretty quickly, like the tools. So that's...
Lori: Yeah. You don't have to spend a hundred thousand dollars to get those answers where you have tools and innovation at your disposal. You just have to figure out how to access those tools that are available. [chuckle] I've said this before about our industry. We build all of these networks in order to foster innovation and foster advancements, but yet within our own industry, we're very bad at innovating our processes for building those networks.
Lori: And there's still a lot of paper based systems and other types of old fashioned ways of doing things on Excel that are still part of our collective processes. And so...
Jase: Yeah, that's striking, Lori. The industry that brings magic and future to people's lives tends to run a lot on duck tape and spreadsheets and love. And this is Jackson by the way and he's really beating down the door, so hope you don't mind a guest appearance.
Lori: I have a hiding loose cat around here somewhere too, so. [laughter]
Jase: Yeah, so to your point, Lori, real quick can I show you something real fast? Ben, are you there? Can you let me share my screen?
Ben: Yeah, sure thing.
Jase: It's always funny to see Ben Conn represented as Drew Clark. It never gets old, I've seen it five or six times now and I still... I think that it makes a lot of sense as a thing that should happen more often. We're actually, to your point Lori, because of that concern, we're about to release the broadband audit for 55,000 plus places in the United States. So this is a quick sneak preview of it, just to your point, because we wanna make sure that those folks that are in that spot that you were in, all those times that you were pre-pandemic and putting together all that stuff, it takes an extraordinary amount of work to get to that level of where you can actually go out and do this stuff where you really need to focus, like talking to the community, right? Doing your local coordination, engaging all the stakeholders, right? So we are putting this out. Community, if anybody's watching that's looking into that space, look for it to drop next week, and it should have a pretty good amount of things that you'll be able to use in the construction of a broadband feasibility study, right? And then tons and tons and tons of data like Lori was saying. So just think that's an important segue. Jackson is trying to get into the closet, there's absolutely nothing in there of interest to a cat, but he's insisting, so.
Lori: Well, he's been told he can't get in there, so that's the reason he wants to go in there.
Jase: Ah, yes. [laughter] Oh man. Okay, knowing that, why don't you go in there, see for yourself, man. Okay, Lori you mentioned something really important about innovation, I wanna talk for a minute about the future 'cause you work at one of the coolest companies on the planet, right? Nokia is like low key one of the coolest companies out there, it's one of the oldest companies that's still around, right? So you have to be doing something right A, it started in crazy other stuff, not broadband but trees and whatnot. It's over a hundred and something years old, world's most ethical company sometimes, right? Awards that you've won in years past and then you got Bell Labs, right? So this is like the OGs of telecom, as part of the squad then you got guys like David Eckard, right? He's like the maker of the second ONT, the second ever ONT.
Lori: The one that didn't catch on fire. Yeah.
Jase: Yeah. The one that didn't catch on fire, and then now you are all doing crap like while some people are still squabbling over why would we need a 100 over 20? You are all are like announcing the first 25 gigabit network, right? In Chattanooga, and places like that, like what the hell? That's amazing, what's that all about and what's that like?
Lori: I'm privileged to be able to work at a company where I learn something new every day. I'm blown away by the innovation and the smart people at Nokia and the commitment to the industry. It's really interesting. You're right on the innovation side. One of the questions I saw posted... I'll ask myself a question here, Jase. So I saw the question posted...
Jase: I gotta take the coffee break anyway, so you do you.
Lori: You take your coffee break.
Jase: You do you, Lori.
Lori: I'll ask myself a question. [laughter] It was around latency and what's Nokia done regarding latency. And it's Nokia has been involved in working on latency and networks for a long time. And we've developed some of the enabling technologies for low latency. And so when you're considering that, you have to consider the entire network, and this is where operators will differentiate one from another. And just this morning I was actually on a demo for one of our products, the Beacon 6, and some of the capabilities the Beacon has and the applications that you can fold into it, and dashboards you can create and data you can glean. One of the functions is around latency. And one of our customers was curious, they were like, "We have the lowest latency, why are we not the number one gaming platform?" And the data collected shows that yes, they were the lowest latency, but they were the most inconsistent latency. So, one thing that I really love about Nokia is just the ability to hone in and innovate and solve for these problems and find answers. And because the portfolio, the Nokia portfolio plays in every technology, whether it's fiber, wireless, mobility, whatever it is. There's a lot of... It's really an interesting company to work with, work for.
Jase: I totally dig that, Lori, and that's... So y'all are actually doing something, I'm going on a limb, I'm guessing you're asking yourself a question from Dave Todd, long time community member, pioneer of internet things. And been fighting the good fight on getting folks to understand the role of latency and building future facing applications and services. And that's a really important point and it brings me to another topic. Lori, as you're able to think creatively from having all these experiences from around the different perspectives around the table, in prior roles, is there anything that you can tell to these states, broadly, on what they can be thinking about and doing? But specifically, there's a thing, it's like how do you get them to stop thinking that they have to stay put on unserved under-served after they get their allocation, right? How can they incorporate other things, right? How can they incorporate things like latency into their criteria, right? How can they prioritize, right? 'Cause they're gonna have the ability to factor in other things that they value, right? So how can we help them to understand that download is, it's like the top speed of broadband. It doesn't really matter that much, right?
Lori: So the first thing that comes to mind is how you architect your network, right? And which means selecting providers that are experienced in deploying networks and understanding how to deploy them smartly. And, for example, in the BTOP days we had a vendor, we had like four different construction vendors, and we had criteria for construction. We had a construction methodology that was basic, but we largely left it up to the construction companies to construct in accordance with our methods. And then we were doing inspections and all of that. Well, I started to see a whole lot of charges for splicing coming across my desk. And I'm like, "Why is there so much splicing happening?" And...
Jase: What's with the splicing?
Lori: What's going on? [laughter] And we had to look into it and what we found was that one of the contractors had a subcontractor that was laying cable and was using a whole bunch of like leftover remnants, at the very end of a project and was piecing together all of these remnants into the final routes. And it's like, okay, as you can imagine, that is not best practices for designing networks with low latency, splicing a whole bunch of leftover cables together. So, things like that. Really focusing on techniques for designing your network and deploying your network and running your network. That's really where you get the sustainability and the top performance out of what you're doing. I mean, fiber is a catalyst. It's enabling technology. So you really have to look at all of these other things to help improve the performance over time.
Jase: Right. This is great, Lori. So you're saying there is a chance for states to prioritize it, and then there are practical reasons why they should, such as, penny-wise, pound-foolish moves like scrapping together a network from leftover pieces when...
Lori: Yeah. It's like...
Jase: Okay. [laughter] Cost structure, latency. There's a bunch of reasons there.
Jase: So that gets into another question from a community member Dan Lubar, asks, first he says, "Hi, Lori. It's always good to hear your incisive opinions and what you have to say. I'd love to hear your thoughts about if there are any variations that you/Nokia see from state to state as far as how states are handling the funds that they're passing out from the Feds. And do you see any broad groupings, right, of states?" That's an interesting idea, right? Coalitions are sort of like alignments around certain topics of how they're handling this distribution of BEAD money.
Lori: So well, that remains to be seen, right? I mean, we know that the states are all talking with each other. NTIA has hired liaisons to work with states. Every state has a person that is the dedicated person working with them on the BEAD implementation. So they have a lot of staff that are supporting the states. States are in the process, there's a wide range of planning stages that the states are going through right now. Some are more prepared than others at the moment. We have a couple states like Louisiana that was approved. Their planning money was approved from NTIA, so they're already underway with that process. But a lot of this is just being developed now, so we're not gonna be able to see the outputs of this for another nine to 12 months or more. But we can get a sense for what the states are doing based on their own state grant programs.
Lori: Those that have launched ARPA programs, those that have BEAD programs, I mean, excuse me, CPF programs, they're gonna take from what they've already set up and apply that to BEAD. So there are definitely some lessons to be learned there or information to be gleaned from what states are currently doing, but a lot of that is kind of on a we'll know in a year.
Jase: Awesome. Now, thank you, Lori. Switch gears to ask another community member question from Philip Hanson. And I tend to side with Phillip on this. Like, in terms of the thinking that goes into this kind of question. What are your thoughts on the fact that inflation has doubled some build costs? And in this case he's being specific, has doubled some RDOF build costs, right? And some may default in their obligation as a result of the fact the dollar is like completely different animal by the time the money actually gets to the recipient. That's a good question.
Lori: Yeah. That's hard.
Jase: How do you think about that?
Lori: Yeah. So a couple things. One, RDOF is a tough program. Just the program rules for it. It's based on the lowest subsidy, the lowest amount of subsidy you need to reach a high cost area, right? So you're already asking the government for the lowest amount of money and then, by the time you get around to starting RDOF a year, two years after the bidding took place, then your pricing has changed. So that's hard. With BEAD, it'll be a little bit more... And some of these other grant programs, there's a little more of streamlined from the time you put a grant application in to when it's approved to when you start working. But the labor costs, obviously the increase of all of these costs are going to impact the program.
Jase: Yeah, I correlate with that. I wonder about is like, knowing that should we move faster, right? In deployment and allocation, getting to allocation just because everybody needs that stuff now or yesterday even, and it remains to be seen whether the purchasing power stays the same or continues to drop. So that's good, thank you for your perspective there, Lori. I wanna switch gears real fast because we're approaching as sad as I am to say it, the final 15 minutes. It's final countdown, we're just gonna start to get into lightning round, throw some curveballs. But I wanna start with one from Adam Puckett who's a fellow Coloradan, I think you're... You're Coloradan.
Lori: Oh, yeah. Boulder.
Jase: Am saying it right? Coloradan. Coloradoan. You're from... [laughter] You live in Colorado. How did you... Lori, how did your experience with the Boulder County wildfires change your perspective on telecom access for unserved and underserved populations?
Lori: Oh great, the... So I live in the town of Superior which is one of the two towns that was impacted by the fires, we lost 10% of our homes in the town of Superior were burned to the ground. In between Superior and Louisville we lost 1084 homes and structures and most of those homes in 12 hours. And it wasn't a wildfire, this was a fire that started on a property just not far from the town boundaries. And 130 mile an hour winds on a clear sunny day created this fire hurricane that just blew through our town and destroyed it on December 30th. So I evacuated, our home was fine, but we have many friends who lost everything, and we have one of the striking things that in the immediate days following the recovery process, when people were in need, were hurting and shocked and in need of assistance, communication services were obviously critically important.
Lori: The fire was so hot and so severe, that Comcast Cable burned underground, and it was the fiber, the impact of the fiber was what caused the cellular, the AT&T and Verizon issues. 'Cause we had so much damage to the fiber, even underground. And so, but the amount of information, the companies, all the telecommunications companies worked their tails off to get everything up and going as soon as possible for the most people. But the biggest takeaway here is community preparedness. And so it's not so much in the individual location level as it is for communities because there were two major failures here, the first was in lack of warning systems, lack of technology.
Lori: But we received an order to evacuate by email an hour and a half after the fire started, and an hour after the first homes burned in the town. We had emergency, we have tornado warnings, other emergency capabilities that were not utilized. And so we learned of the evacuation by email followed by a yeoman's effort by our local fire and rescue, not our fire fighters but police, EMTs, others, non fire personnel who went door to door to pull people out, and that saved lives, because we only lost two lives in the fire. But some people, a lot of people had no warning, so the warning systems was a huge failure.
Lori: The second piece was in the immediate hours post recovery, the communications folks were not part of the Emergency Operations Center, they kind had to find their way to it. They were not automatically included in the EOC as part of the recovery and disaster recovery folks. So you have to think, so if we're gonna treat broadband like a utility, we have to treat it like a utility, and we have to make it a priority. And so when we have these types of emergency events and disaster events, we need to make sure that communications is right up there with electricity, that we're resolving for all of these critical services because they're desperately needed.
Jase: That's spot on, Lori. So it sounds like deep impact helps shape your thinking and I'm hearing there's a need for resilience, right? The stuff melted, right? And this is lifeline stuff in 2022. By 2030 the way we've sort of gone exponential on reliance, on connectivity, you're saying you can't do programs like RDOF where it's like Race to Zero, lowest bid and everybody tries to scrap together. What's the least expensive method to get these folks connected? It's actually you gotta think about it from the perspective of what's the permanent, as David Eckard would say, like the carrier grade infrastructure version of that. Even at the very local level, even at all the way to the premises. There's gotta be something that allows for resilience, that doesn't mean this thing happened and of all of our systems failed us. So, it's really good.
Lori: In the fires, for example, the fires came within four feet of the oxygen tanks at the hospital. And our firefighters were fighting that with garden hoses as well as their regular gear. It's like an all hands on deck, but you have to start thinking of communications as telecommunications as a critical service.
Jase: Wow, man. So let's go a little bit lighter topic for a few moments. That was amazing. Thank you for sharing your perspective. That was, those are hard earned perspectives. Okay. It takes like your level of experience and understanding from all the different angles, plus seeing something like that up close to understand, to glean insights about how it should shape future policies and approaches. But on a lighter note, what are you doing this weekend? Do you have plans? You're gonna go see, like what did you say, it's a concert?
Lori: Yeah. So, right. In the profile, I know you guys eked out of me that I was a YouTube groupie. Doug and I are YouTube groupies, and so we are heading, we're going to Toronto to see Bono's show regarding his memoir book. So if any...
Jase: Okay, great.
Lori: If anyone caught Bono last night on Colbert, we're gonna see the full show.
Jase: Good, Lori. And I've put on some glasses for you. [laughter]
Lori: Yeah. Awesome.
Jase: To kinda help ease the mood.
Lori: Your prop. That's fantastic.
Jase: Yeah. Something a little nice. A second question that's just as serious and profound as what Ben asks. Scotch, rye, bourbon, which one and why?
Lori: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of people that'll fight over this. So I am not a bourbon person. There's some bourbon I do like.
Jase: Kentucky Friends on the call. Like, what do you think? Send your thoughts.
Lori: Really, really my focus either, I'm an Irish whiskey girl and single malt scotch, but on the scotch, don't try to give me anything that has peat or smoke in it. You know, I...
Jase: No peat, no smoke.
Lori: No peat, no smoke. You know, you had me at Sherry Cask, the old Russell Cask finished, single malt from the Highlands or Space side. That's my preference.
Jase: Okay. And an old college drinking buddy got me a thing many minutes ago. Is this a good one?
Lori: Actually, I have not had that one, that particular one, but yeah.
Jase: So buddy Austin Kilroy, if you're listening, he's always traveling the globe, so he's probably not listening, but I'm still gonna open it.
Lori: I don't have my... The Glenfiddich 18 or Balvenie Caribbean cask 14 is my favorite.
Jase: All right. Well, good deal. So, we have a few more minutes here, Lori. And I think there are some folks that have asked in the community. I wanna kinda roll up some topics here. Your background, you didn't like go to school and be like, I'm gonna study some broadband. Probably didn't say like, that's to kind of finish your study at the time, but they usually say like, what? Archaeology and anthropology, is that right?
Lori: Yeah, yeah. I was an anthropology major in college with a focus on archaeology and did a dig at Mount Vernon and George Washington's home out in Virginia. I was in American University undergrad, and it was a great major for college, I gotta tell you. The only problem with it is once I graduated, I didn't really wanna go, anthropology as a career, it's tough. It's a tough career path to try and navigate. I wanted to have a little more control over where I lived and what I did. So, my other passion was law and so I ended up going to law school.
Jase: Pretty cool. And then Drew Clark, I think to be kind of a smart ass or to attempt to be a smart ass asks, thousands of years from now, what do you think archeologists in the future will deduce from our civilization when they dig up our fiber networks?
Lori: I was just gonna say plastic that we used a lot of plastic. But it necessarily doesn't have to relate to our network. [laughter] Always comes back to plastics. It's interesting if you tour, I toured Pompeii once, and one of the things that struck me about Pompeii was that they had a water system that was... You could see the pipes in the ground, that they actually had a water system in the streets. And so, I thought, wow, the civilization at that time was smart enough to know, to put piping underground for services that we're still using those same techniques today. So I would think that 1000 years from now, hopefully we'll see some of our innovation that we're carrying forward.
Jase: Okay. Well, there you have it. You wanna close out with the theme, Lori, that's you have all these perspectives from all these different points of view, right? From around the table, from all the folks that get involved with, the bringing to life and broadband projects. And there's this sense, and a lot of people are working really hard to get this next bottleneck out of the way. The funding is there. Now, the funding is there, it's coming, right? What's next? There's not a lot of folks that are trained up and skilled in broadband. What's one thing that you wish was true about the broadband industry, in terms of workforce and inclusiveness and diversity and what does that look like in the future?
Lori: Wow. Well, there's a lot in there, as a closing question, Jase. But I just would hope that we're all, we all start, we all work together. I mean, I know it's kind of cliche to say we're stronger together, right? Or any of those cliches. But I think as an industry, what I would like to see is for us to be able to harness some of that innovation that we're developing and figure out how to deploy networks smarter and faster and cheaper. And enable, which will help to bring services to market faster, create more innovation platforms down the road. There's a lot there that we could still collectively do as an industry. And obviously a part of that is it's an industry, we as a people are getting older in this industry, and it's really important that we bring in more younger folks and learn from what they have to offer from their perspectives and take that into consideration.
Jase: That's fantastic Lori. There's also a sense that like everybody's welcome in this industry, right? Even if it's not composed of something that looks a lot like the global distribution of population, of folks happenstance, of genetic makeups. Maybe it isn't that right now, but it could and should be, right? And it's kind of, it should be, I think because it is the global brain, right? And then the global nervous system. So that's really fascinating. You're a leader, Lori, I think we're out of time. You're an inspiration to a lot of folks. I always learn new crap every time we talk. Super appreciative of that. I hope you and Doug have a wonderful time with Bono and that you stream with a device that's connected by networks that you might have helped to put into the reality, back to all your followers and everybody. So really appreciate you, Lori. Thanks for making time.
Lori: Thanks, Jase. I appreciate you having me.