Muni fiber: L1 or L2?

Owen DeLong owen at
Thu Jan 31 20:31:53 UTC 2013

On Jan 31, 2013, at 07:07 , Ray Soucy <rps at> wrote:

> 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
> fiber.
> 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.

That's also a worthy goal, but it doesn't address the issues that
are the subject of this conversation. Middle-mile solutions
like this are not all that uncommon, even in such backwards
places (when it comes to networking infrastructure) as silicon

Where we still have a serious lack of deployment and virtually no
competition, even in most major metros, is the last mile.

> 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.

This is definitely a good first step if you can get it through the legislative
process without having the $TELCOS and $CABLECOS lobby against
it to the point of death or dismemberment.

> 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.

Sounds great... Now, the $50,000,000 question... How do we replicate
that model at the consumer level?

> 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.

That's certainly the ideal, yes.

> 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.

There are cases where the lack of L2 services could pose a barrier
to entry for competition. That's why I proposed the following requirements:

1.	Must sell dark fiber to any purchaser.
2.	Must sell dark fiber to all purchasers on equal terms.
	(There must be a published price list and there cannot be deviations
	from that price list. If the price list is modified, existing customers
	receive the new pricing at the beginning of their next billing cycle.)
3.	May provide value-added L2 services 
4.	If L2 services are provided, they are also subject to rule 2.
5.	May not sell L3 or higher level services.
6.	May not hold ownership or build any form of alliance or affiliation with
	a provider of L3 or higher level services.


> 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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