Muni fiber: L1 or L2?

Ray Soucy rps at
Thu Jan 31 15:07:00 UTC 2013

Late to the conversation, but I'll chime in that we established a
model in Maine that is working pretty well, at least for middle-mile

When we started building out MaineREN (our RON) we decided that having
the University own the fiber would tie it up in political red tape.
So much so that it would ultimately not be made available to the
private sector (because incumbents would accuse us of competing with
them using public funds).  We knew this because we had already spent a
year in the legislature fighting off industry lobbyists.

Obviously there are considerable investments in such infrastructure
that many private companies are unwilling or unable to make in rural
areas (ROI takes too long), so we really wanted to make sure that
future facilities would be built out in a way that would allow service
providers to expand into the state cheaply, encourage competition, and
ultimately provide better services at lower costs.

The goal was to establish geographically diverse, high stand-count,
rings to reach the majority of the state, so we pitched it in a
public-private partnership to go after Recovery Act funding.

As of a few months ago the build-out is complete, and the first
networks to make use of the fiber are starting to come online
(including MaineREN).

The way we did it was to have the state government create a new public
utility designation of "Dark Fiber Provider".  There are a few rules
in place to keep things fair: Mainly they're forbidden to provide lit
services and they're required to provide open access to anyone at
published rates.

The result is "Maine Fiber Company":

It's still early on, but I'm anxious to see how things look in 10 years or so.

A lot of people who like the idea of what we've done aren't sure if
it's a good model to apply for last mile fiber.  Personally, I think
replicating this model to deliver dark fiber to the home (much like
electricity) is the only way we'll be able to shield providers from
having to make major investments to deliver the level of service we
really need.  By keeping it as a dark-fiber only service, you create
an environment where there is competition instead of one provider
keeping speeds low and prices high.

I initially thought having L2 separation would be good in that service
changes could be done remotely, etc.  But after giving it some
thought, I think it places way too much potential for L2 to be the
bottleneck or source of problematic service and if it's provided by a
public utility or municipality it could take very long to fix (if it
get's fixed at all) due to politics and budget hawks.  I really want
to have choice between providers even at the L2 level.

On Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 12:54 PM, Jay Ashworth <jra at> wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Leo Bicknell" <bicknell at>
>> I am a big proponent of muni-owned dark fiber networks. I want to
>> be 100% clear about what I advocate here:
>> - Muni-owned MMR space, fiber only, no active equipment allowed. A
>> big cross connect room, where the muni-fiber ends and providers are
>> all allowed to colocate their fiber term on non-discriminatory terms.
>> - 4-6 strands per home, home run back to the muni-owned MMR space.
>> No splitters, WDM, etc, home run glass. Terminating on an optical
>> handoff inside the home.
> Hmmm.  I tend to be a Layer-2-available guy, cause I think it lets smaller
> players play.  Does your position (likely more deeply thought out than
> mine) permit Layer 2 with Muni ONT and Ethernet handoff, as long as clients
> are *also* permitted to get a Layer 1 patch to a provider in the fashion you
> suggest?
> (I concur with your 3-pair delivery, which makes this more practical on an
> M-A-C basis, even if it might require some users to have multiple ONTs...)
> Cheers,
> -- 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

Ray Patrick Soucy
Network Engineer
University of Maine System

T: 207-561-3526
F: 207-561-3531

MaineREN, Maine's Research and Education Network

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