Investing in solution providers that can operate in a multivendor environment not only allows states and regions to select the combination of products and solutions that best fit their unique needs and budgets, but it also ensures they have more options to choose from in the face of supply chain issues.
Backed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s $65 billion in funding for broadband expansion, state and local governments are eager to build out their networking infrastructure, and rightfully so.
It’s a simple truth that for the country to progress, all communities must be given the tools, including connectivity, so residents can participate in and contribute to the economy, access telehealth and take advantage of remote learning regardless of their ZIP code, topography or population density. And today, most of rural America still lacks broadband access.
Still, a thoughtful planning phase is critical and complex – there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the unique needs and priorities of diverse locales, residents and economies. However, in all cases, conversations prioritizing cybersecurity and future proofing against supply chain issues are key.
Getting these two areas right is foundational to realizing the current and long-term benefits of secure, reliable, affordable and available connectivity.
Cybersecurity is critical to achieving equitable outcomes of broadband expansion
Proactive cybersecurity planning and budgeting is vital in getting ahead of a crisis. Breaches will happen – it’s not a matter of if, but when. Investing in cybersecurity upfront will go a long way in protecting critical infrastructure, aiding small service providers and telecom operators and protecting the people and organizations who rely on them.
From designating jurisdictions and responsibilities and putting clear governance frameworks and processes in place to ensuring both physical and cybersecurity, there are many questions to answer. And as new systems are built, ensuring interoperability with old systems can’t be overlooked. Governments must make sure legacy infrastructure works with the new and ensure there are enough skilled, knowledgeable personnel to maintain the security of it all – after all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Collaboration can help lighten the burden. When selecting solution providers, governments must look for those that can operate in a multivendor environment. Working with several solutions providers helps mitigate risk and offers more agility to stay ahead of evolving risks. It is well understood that heterogeneous networks, those consisting of solutions from multiple vendors, are better protected against single points of failure than homogeneous, or single vendor, networks. Having a multivendor environment as a goal also permits network operators and users to seek best-of-breed solutions from each provider instead of settling for one provider that merely is sufficient.
Budgeting and planning for cybersecurity upfront will pay off and should be a top priority even in the most modest of grants. It will also be up to Congress to allocate more funding toward cybersecurity in future broadband expansion planning.
To ease supply chain issues – and improve affordability – multivendor environments are key
It’s no secret that the two-year-long supply chain crisis likely won’t be alleviated any time soon. A multivendor approach to supply chain issues will help broadband deployments roll out faster and more affordably – bringing connectivity to more Americans. It also gives states and regions more power to negotiate prices and greater flexibility as needs and circumstances shift.
Not only will multivendor environments allow regions to build best-of-breed networks that have security baked into their frameworks, but they can also help avoid the increasingly common supply chain pitfalls that come with being locked into a single vendor.
Investing in solution providers that can operate in a multivendor environment not only allows states and regions to select the combination of products and solutions that best fit their unique needs and budgets, but it also ensures that there are more options to choose from in the face of supply chain issues. Materials needed to create fiber-optic cables, for example, are in high demand and short supply. Such cabling can be sourced from a variety of manufacturers. If a customer chooses only one networking vendor for its entire network, that vendor might be locked into a particular cable manufacturer and thus subject to its manufacturing and delivery timelines. Having multiple network vendors, though, can bring in alternative or backup cable suppliers and thus alleviate any sourcing problems.
This open approach benefits communities and keeps regions competitive and innovative. A more competitive marketplace gives states and regions options for a tailored combination of solutions that can lower prices for end users.
More must be done
While the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is just a first step toward beginning to close the digital divide, it provides important opportunities for more states and regions to begin planning. Those who will be the most successful will integrate cybersecurity and supply chain solutions into those plans.
Sampak Garg serves as associate general counsel and senior director at Juniper Networks. Garg is a legal professional with experience in analyzing and resolving strategic, legal, public policy and regulatory issues.