5 Questions with Josh Broder of Tilson Technology Management
What involvement does Tilson have with the Three Ring Binder project?
Tilson was hired by Maine Fiber Company, Inc., owner of the Three Ring Binder to oversee the program management, vendor selection, third party agreements, pole licensing, construction, and grant management for the project. These are services that Tilson typically provides to telecom companies, institutions, and government agencies with large projects to accomplish.
What unexpected opportunities have come about from working on this project?
Tilson has had other successes with customers in the same federal grant program, including the MassBroadband 123 project, and the Maine State Library’s Information Commons project. In addition, Tilson has been helping Iberdrola USA on a large, Department of Energy advanced metering infrastructure project (sometimes called ‘smart grid), as well as 2G to 3G upgrades, and 3G to 4G upgrades for a large national mobile carrier.
Tilson has created a highly skilled project team – bringing together seasoned subject matter experts on rights acquisition, wireless technologies, and fiber optics, as well as the opportunity to bring in and train more junior team members who have learned on the go, taken on leadership roles, and are contributing as key players.
Are there any success stories that stand out since starting on the project?
The Three Ring Binder was the first broadband stimulus project in the country to complete the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) approval process, and we have nearly completed the licensing and make-ready process on around 30,000 utility poles in Maine, across a dozen incumbent utilities. Getting the various agreements done that were needed to get to the starting line, including attachment agreements, railroad crossings, and other third party approvals went really well on this project, and were critical to getting things moving so quickly. This is where Tilson shines. We were especially excited to see two early pilot projects ‘go live’ on the network, including GWI’s use of the Three Ring Binder to provide broadband for healthcare facilities in Midcoast Maine, and Pioneer Broadband’s use of the Three Ring Binder to deliver residential broadband to several un-served communities in Southeastern Aroostook County. There are at least half a dozen other carriers working on projects using the Three Ring Binder across the state, and it’s fun for us to work with various carriers as they take the next steps on last mile investment off of the network. We feel really lucky to be working with such a great group of vendors on the project – in large part our success has a lot to do with the team we built, including Tilson; nextGen; WESCO; Ciena; Waveguide; Calderwood Engineering, Kleinschmidt Associates, the University of Maine System, Elevate Consulting, Verrill Dana, LLP; Maine Street Solutions; Drummond Woodsum, Bernstein Shur, Curtis Thaxter, and BerryDunn.
What are some of the struggles and failures?
The availability of fiber optic cable has been a challenge as suppliers struggle to support a telecom construction boom with no shelf stock, but we locked in supply contracts early on in the project and have been able to manage supplies without delaying construction. Federal compliance in a new grant program has also been challenging, working to respond to the various agencies as they worked out the program rules and rhythms. We are lucky to be running ahead of our construction schedule, so this project has been more about making sure that supplies, compliance, and documentation keep up with construction rather than with delays or failures.
What other tech opportunities or opportunities in general does Tilson see as generating economic growth in Maine for the future?
One of the fun things about working for Tilson is that we get to work with project owners all over the world, and get to see what’s coming next. For Maine, we can expect to see 3G wireless moving into the more rural areas of the state, and 4G wireless coming to larger towns and cities soon. We are also seeing telecom carriers start to aggressively build out fiber optics to homes and businesses. Generally, we are seeing more ‘innovation sector’ businesses growing in Maine, and to serve their growing needs to access and process information, we are going to need faster broadband technologies locally. In terms of computing power and application development, I’m seeing a lot of start-up activity world-wide on the back of cloud computing products that are already commoditized. The companies dominating these markets include Salesforce.com, Amazon, Rackspace, and Microsoft. These companies are competing in terms of what they offer consumers, and are on a race to the bottom in terms of cost.
Interview info: Joshua Broder serves as President of the Tilson family of companies, a fast growing team of telecom and information technology project and program management professionals with a worldwide practice. A former Army communications officer, he holds a Bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College, is a distinguished military graduate of the University of Vermont’s Military Studies program, and a member of Leadership Maine’s Omicron Class.
Tilson: Founded in 1996, Tilson is a family of consulting firms providing IT and telecommunications consulting services for private and public sector clients. Headquartered in Portland, Maine, Tilson has satellite offices in New York, New York and Zug, Switzerland. Learn more at www.tilsontech.com.
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