Rollup: Small City Municipal Broadband

Jay Ashworth jra at
Sat Feb 2 18:40:30 UTC 2013

Ok, here's a rough plan assembled from everyone's helpful contributions
and arguing all week, based on the City with which, if I'm lucky, I 
might get a job Sometime Soon. :-)  (I'm sure some of you can speculate 
which city it might be, but Please Don't.)

It's about 3 square miles, and has about 8000 passings, the majority of
which are single or double family residential; a sprinkling of multi-tenant,
about a dozen city facilities, and a bunch of retail multi-unit business.

Oh, and a college campus, commuter.

My goal is to fiber the entire city, with a 3-pr tail on each single-family
residence (or unit of a duplex/triplex), and N*1.5 on multi-tenant business
buildings, and probably about N*1.1 or so on large multi-unit residences.
Empty lots, if we have any, will also get a 3-pr tail, in a box.

My plan is for the city to contract out the design and build of the physical
plant, with each individual pair home-run to a Master Distributing Frame in
a city building.  Since the diameter of the city is so small, this can be
a single building, and it need not be centrally located -- since we are a
coastal city, I want it at the other end. :-)

I propose to offer to clients, generally ISP, but also property owner/
renters, L1 connectivity, either between two buildings, or to a properly
equipped ISP, and also to equip for and offer L2 aggregated connectivity
to ISPs, where the city, instead of the ISP, will provide the necessary
CPE termination gear (ONT).  The entire L0 fiber build, and all L2 
aggregation equipment (except potential GPON splitters mentioned next) 
will be the property of the City.

Assuming that the optical math pans out, we will hang GPON splitter frames
in the MDT, and cross connect subscriber ports to the front of them, and
the back of them to Provider equipment in an associated colo, in rooms
or cages; we'll also probably do this for our L2 subscribers, using our
own GPON splitters.  Those will then be groomed into Ethernet handoffs 
for whatever providers want to take it that way, at a higher MRC.  
Splitters installed for Providers who take L1 handoffs will be their
property, though installed in our MDF room.

We will do all M-A-C work on the MDF, into which Provider employees will 
generally not be admitted, at least unescorted, on a daily basis, except
in "emergencies", for which an extra NRC will be levied.

The cost we will charge the Providers, per subscriber, will be a fixed
MRC, similar to a 'tariffed' rate, which is published, and all Providers
pay the same rate, which is subject by contract to occasional adjustment
in either direction, and which is set to recover our costs to provide 
the service, based on take rates and depreciation periods which I have not
yet determined.  I'm assuming I can get 30 year depreciation out of the
fiber plant with no problems, probably 40... maybe 50 if it's built to
high enough standards -- I do not expect passive glass fiber to become
obsolete in 50 years.

Active equipment, a much shorter period, of course, probably between 4 
and 7 years, depending on how far up the S-curve of terminal equipment
design it proves that we've already traveled.  At the moment, my 
comparison device is the Calix E7-20, with either 24-port AE or the
GPON cards; either 836GE interior ONTs, or their equivalent exterior 
ones (since the power module has to be inside anyway, I'm not sure you
gain that much by putting the ONT outside, but...)

My motivation for not doing L3 is that it is said to greatly improve the
chances for competition at the ISP level, a fact not yet in evidence.

My motivation for not doing GPON in the field is that it's thoroughly
impractical to do that in an environment where an unknown number of
multiple providers will be competing for the subscribers, and anyway
it breaks point to point, which the city will need for itself, and which
I want to offer to residents as well.

My motivation for doing L2 is that it takes a lost of the front-end cost
burden off of potential smaller 'boutique' ISPs specializing in various
disciplines (very low cost/lifeline service, very high speed, 'has a big
local usenet spool', or what have you); such providers will have to pay
(and recover) a higher per-subscriber MRC, in exchange for not having to
themselves provision and install GPON splitters and something like a Calix
E7 -- such hardware will be installed by the City, and cost-shared; if/when
such a provider gets big enough, they can install their own, and we'll
cut them over.

I propose to take the project to the council for funding and approval
having in my pocket a letter of intent from a local 2nd tier ISP of 
long standing to become our launch provider, with no incentives over
the published rates except the guarantee of additional subscribers.

My underlying motivation, which is intended to answer any tradeoff queries
which I haven't explicitly addresses before this point, is to increase
the City's position as being "full service" (as small as it is, it does
it's own fire, police, garbage and water already), and improve it's
chances of selection by people who are deciding where to move.  The City
already has a relatively good image, within its target market, but as
time marches ever forwards, the maximum available broadband in its 
footprint will become less and less acceptable, and I expect that there 
are a significant number of people around the country for whom "I can 
get Gigabit in my house? Bidirectional? I'm moving" is a valid viewpoint.

I know already that "what kind of broadband can I get" is a top-5, and
sometimes top-3 selection issue for people contemplating a move.

Things, therefore, which improve the city's image with potential immigrants,
be they residents or small businesses, are a Good Thing, whether because
those people actually want or need those services, or whether it's merely
because they like to bask in the reflected glow there of.

These things will likely reduce the city's vacancy rate, and thus increase
property tax revenue and hence the city's budget, in addition to slowly
improving the city's socioeconomic demographics, which will itself likely
have a salutary effect on the small businesses already here, and in the
decision processes of people thinking to move one here or start one.

That's my thinking so far.  Now comes the hard part: assembling enough
other budgetary numbers to determine how much it will cost, how much we'll
have to charge, and whether people will *pay* that much.

I don't have any illusions that the wholesale charges will be a revenue
stream for the City, and I won't let the council get any such ideas either;
the benefits to the city (aside from dark fiber to all our own buildings)
are a bit deeper than that, and will require sufficient time to come to

I wrote this as a summary for all the helpful NANOGers who chimed in this 
week, and as a clarification for those who weren't quite sure where *I* 
was trying to go -- all muni builds are sui generis, and this one moreso
than most.

If any of you see anything we've already said, but I left out, please 
let me know...

And have a Whacky Weekend.  If any of you pass through the west coast 
enroute to ORL, let me know.  :-)

-- jra

Jay R. Ashworth                  Baylink                       jra at
Designer                     The Things I Think                       RFC 2100
Ashworth & Associates         2000 Land Rover DII
St Petersburg FL USA               #natog                      +1 727 647 1274

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