Today, only 40 percent of the US population has access to fiber optic broadband. This is quite incredible when you consider the country covers almost 10,000 square kilometers.
As one can imagine, the fiber optic hotspots that do exist are generally in larger cities and more densely populated areas, creating a digital divide across the nation. This technological disparity is becoming more problematic as we venture further into the digital age. Luckily, Brightspeed is doing something about it.
In October 2022, Brightspeed officially began its operations as a new company, born from Apollo Global Management’s acquisition of Lumen Technologies’ assets and operations in 20 states, as an incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC). It is currently the fifth largest ILEC in the US and serves over one million broadband customers.
“We are investing $2 billion to build a fiber network, which will provide faster, more reliable internet and Wi-Fi to communities across the Midwest, Southeast, and certain parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” opens Brenda Rapp, Vice President of Procurement and Supply Chain.
“Starting in late 2021 and through the buildup of establishing the new company, the focus has primarily been on creating an organization with all the necessary corporate functions, such as marketing, HR, finance, sales, IT, and legal.
“The goal was to launch operations and transition customers to Brightspeed in late 2022,” she goes on. “Following the launch, we have worked to maintain acquired services, improve our customer experience, and have started to build our new extensive fiber network.
“The engineering and construction of the latter is taking up a lot of our current focus as we are still utilizing some of Lumen’s systems and processes, while also expanding our own capabilities. Overall, I would say that our themes for 2023 are expansion, automation, and continuous improvement.”
Brenda started her telecom career in the Network Operations Center and worked her way up to a managerial position. After testing a number of different roles, she came to realize that she prefers the business side of technology, parlaying her skills into a sales and engagement management position, before eventually moving into network equipment procurement.
She was the first employee from Lumen to transfer to Brightspeed as part of the purchase transaction, with the directive to develop the latter’s procurement and supply chain functions and facilitate contracts that enabled its other business functions.
“We are an SAP shop and went live with SAP S/4HANA, Ariba, and Fieldglass a few weeks prior to launching the company,” she explains. “There are a number of other measures we’re taking to optimize our procurement systems.
“We have continued to register new suppliers, simplify approval workflows, and collate reports on supplier spend and diversity. Alongside this, our IT team has been gathering requirements and starting development work on the functionality of certain features, such as our equipment return process tool and corresponding workflow back to SAP for inbound receipts, critical spares requisitioning, and auto-sourcing.”
The communities under Brightspeed’s jurisdiction have wholly welcomed its investments in infrastructure, as it strives to bring a faster and more reliable internet service to more than three million homes and businesses with an enormous $2 billion investment.
“To put it simply, internet access equals opportunity for households and businesses alike,” Brenda states. “So, we are primarily targeting locations where fiber and other advanced technologies haven’t historically been deployed. Ensuring everyone has access to fast and affordable internet and Wi-Fi will have a major impact on the rural-urban digital divide.
“This year, Brightspeed will pass hundreds of thousands of premises, making meaningful investments across rural and suburban communities, along with other fiber expansion products for our wholesale carrier customers. By working closely with our IT partners, we will be expanding our systems’ capabilities internally, all while improving customer service, an area that already makes us clearly stand out.
“Our people, technology, and investments set us apart,” she continues. “Our workforce knows their customers and communities better than anybody else, so we have established market teams to actively solicit their input in the field, ensuring the decisions that we make will benefit our target audiences as effectively as possible. In addition to this, our technical employees and contractors are highly skilled and accredited to industry standards.
“Eighteen months ago, it was just me – a procurement and supply chain department of one. Today, our team includes 39 outstanding professionals in purchasing, procurement, systems, and supply chain.
“I fully credit the team with creating efficiencies such as: a procurement intake process to track contract and RFP requests, an NDA intake process that links individual business unit requestors with legal representation, a procurement policy, materials management and material code request reviews, CPE and OLT forecasting models, and much more.
“It’s so gratifying to see the team continue to improve our metrics around material availability, forecasting, volume of contract completions, process and systems improvements, and the resolution of issues.
“We use only the best, state-of-the-art technology and equipment available today; the plug-and-play components are easier to install and repair. We are combining these innovations with advances in GIS-based engineering and other operations support systems to create an efficient fiber ecosystem.
“Furthermore, our superior operating support systems tie everything together and provide seamless workflow, design, and inventory management. We want to promote a world where people and businesses have access to the connectivity they need to accomplish what’s important.
“Our company culture was built on simple ideals with powerful meaning and impact. We believe that everyone deserves access to the best internet service available, no matter where they call home.
“My team is transitioning to a proactive versus reactive model,” she concludes. “The first few months we were triaging requests as they came in, to ensure that the company could successfully launch.
“Now that we’ve established our function and processes, we are creating a framework that takes market pricing, stakeholder budget challenges, and cost-saving opportunities into consideration for the business units that we support.
“Looking forward, I’d love to see us exceed our target of reaching three million premises with our planned fiber build. Thanks to our strong IT partners, I anticipate we will have robust systems in place for employees to acquire the goods and services Brightspeed needs to better serve our customers.”