Muni Fiber and Politics

Owen DeLong owen at
Tue Jul 22 20:05:01 UTC 2014

On Jul 22, 2014, at 11:26 , Scott Helms <khelms at> wrote:

> One of the main problems with trying to draw the line at layer 1 is that
> its extremely inefficient in terms of the gear.  Now, this is in large part

It's not, actually.

The same GPON gear can be centrally located and has the same loss
characteristics as it would if you put the splitters farther out.

> a function of how gear is built and if a significant number of locales went
> in this direction we _might_ see changes, but today each ISP would have to
> purchase their own OLTs and that leads to many more shelves than the total
> number of line cards would otherwise dictate.  There are certainly many

Not really... You buy OLTs on a per N subscribers basis, not on a per N potential
subscribers, so while you'd have possibly Y additional shelves per area served
where Y = Number of ISPs competing for that area, I don't see that as a huge

> other issues, some of which have been discussed on this list before, but
> I've done open access networks for several cities and _today_ the cleanest
> situations by far (that I've seen) had the city handling layer 1 and 2 with
> the layer 2 hand off being Ethernet regardless of the access technology
> used.

The problem with this approach is that it is great today, but it's a recipe for
exactly the kinds of criticisms that were leveled against Ashland in earlier
comments in this thread... The aging L2 setup will not be upgraded nearly
as quickly as it should because there's no competitive pressure for that
to happen.

OTOH, if the municipality provides only L1 concentration (dragging L1 facilities
back to centralized locations where access providers can connect to large
numbers of customers), then access providers have to compete to deliver
what consumers actually want. They can't ignore the need for newer L2
technologies because their competitor(s) will leap frog them and take away
their customers. This is what we, as consumers, want, isn't it?


> Scott Helms
> Vice President of Technology
> ZCorum
> (678) 507-5000
> --------------------------------
> --------------------------------
> On Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 2:13 PM, Ray Soucy <rps at> wrote:
>> IMHO the way to go here is to have the physical fiber plant separate.
>> FTTH is a big investment.  Easy for a municipality to absorb, but not
>> attractive for a commercial ISP to do.  A business will want to
>> realize an ROI much faster than the life of the fiber plant, and will
>> need assurance of having a monopoly and dense deployment to achieve
>> that.  None of those conditions apply in the majority of the US, so
>> we're stuck with really old infrastructure delivering really slow
>> service.
>> Municipal FTTH needs to be a regulated public utility (ideally at a
>> state or regional level).  It should have an open access policy at
>> published rates and be forbidden from offering lit service on the
>> fiber (conflict of interest).  This covers the fiber box in the house
>> to the communications hut to patch in equipment.
>> Think of it like the power company and the separation between
>> generation and transmission.
>> That's Step #1.
>> Step #2 is finding an ISP to make use of the fiber.
>> Having a single municipal ISP is not really what I think is needed.
>> Having the infrastructure in place to eliminate the huge investment
>> needed for an ISP to service a community is.  Hopefully, enough people
>> jump at the idea and offer service over the fiber, but if they don't,
>> you need to get creative.
>> The important thing is that the fiber stays open.  I'm not a fan of
>> having a town or city be an ISP because I know how the budgets work.
>> I trust a town to make sure my fiber is passing light; I don't trust
>> it to make sure I have the latest and greatest equipment to light the
>> fiber, or bandwidth from the best sources.  I certainly don't trust
>> the town to allow competition if it's providing its own service.
>> This is were the line really needs to be drawn IMHO.  Municipal FTTH
>> is about layer 1, not layer 2 or layer 3.
>> That said, there are communities where just having the fiber plant
>> won't be enough.  In these situations, the municipality can do things
>> like create an incentive program to guarantee a minimum income for an
>> ISP to reach the community which get's trimmed back as the ISP gains
>> subscribers.
>> I don't think a public option is bad on the ISP side of things; as
>> long as the fiber is open and people can choose which ISP they want.
>> The public option might be necessary for very rural communities that
>> can't get service elsewhere or to simply serve as a price-check, but
>> most of us here know that a small community likely won't be able to
>> find the staff to run its own ISP, either.
>> TL;DR Municipal FTTH should be about fixing the infrastructure issues
>> and promoting innovation and competition, not creating a
>> government-run ISP to oust anyone from the market.
>> Think about it: If you're an ISP, and you can lease fiber and
>> equipment space (proper hut, secured, with backup power and cooling
>> etc) for a subsidized rate; for cheaper than anything you could afford
>> to build out; how much arm twisting would it take for you to invest in
>> installing a switch or two to deliver service?  If you're a smaller
>> ISP, you were likely already doing this in working with telephone
>> companies in the past (until they started trying to oust you).
>> On Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 11:27 AM, Aaron <aaron at>
>> wrote:
>>> So let me throw out a purely hypothetical scenario to the collective:
>>> What do you think the consequences to a municipality would be if they
>> laid
>>> fiber to every house in the city and gave away internet access for free?
>>> Not the WiFi builds we have today but FTTH at gigabit speeds for free?
>>> Do you think the LECs would come unglued?
>>> Aaron
>>> On 7/21/2014 8:33 PM, Miles Fidelman wrote:
>>>> I've seen various communities attempt to hand out free wifi - usually in
>>>> limited areas, but in some cases community-wide (Brookline, MA comes to
>>>> mind).  The limited ones (e.g., in tourist hotspots) have been city
>> funded,
>>>> or donated.  The community-wide ones, that I've seen, have been
>>>> public-private partnerships - the City provides space on light poles and
>>>> such - the private firm provides limited access, in hopes of selling
>>>> expanded service.  I haven't seen it work successfully - 4G cell service
>>>> beats the heck out of WiFi as a metropolitan area service.
>>>> When it comes to municipal fiber and triple-play projects, I've
>> generally
>>>> seen them capitalized with revenue bonds -- hence, a need for revenue
>> to pay
>>>> of the financing.  Lower cost than commercial services because municipal
>>>> bonds are low-interest, long-term, and they operate on a cost-recovery
>>>> basis.
>>>> Miles Fidelman
>>>> Aaron wrote:
>>>>> Do you have an example of a municipality that gives free internet
>> access
>>>>> to it's residents?
>>>>> On 7/21/2014 2:26 PM, Matthew Kaufman wrote:
>>>>>> I think the difference is when the municipality starts throwing in
>> free
>>>>>> or highly subsidized layer 3 connectivity "free with every layer 1
>>>>>> connection"
>>>>>> Matthew Kaufman
>>>>>> (Sent from my iPhone)
>>>>>>> On Jul 21, 2014, at 12:08 PM, Blake Dunlap <ikiris at> wrote:
>>>>>>> My power is pretty much always on, my water is pretty much always on
>>>>>>> and safe, my sewer system works, etc etc...
>>>>>>> Why is layer 1 internet magically different from every other utility?
>>>>>>> -Blake
>>>>>>>> On Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 1:38 PM, William Herrin <bill at>
>>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>> On Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 10:20 AM, Jay Ashworth <jra at>
>>>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>>> Over the last decade, 19 states have made it illegal for
>>>>>>>>> municipalities
>>>>>>>>> to own fiber networks
>>>>>>>> Hi Jay,
>>>>>>>> Everything government does, it does badly. Without exception. There
>>>>>>>> are many things government does better than any private organization
>>>>>>>> is likely to sustain, but even those things it does slowly and at an
>>>>>>>> exorbitant price.
>>>>>>>> Muni fiber is a competition killer. You can't beat city hall; once
>>>>>>>> built it's not practical to compete, even with better service, so
>>>>>>>> residents are stuck with only the overpriced (either directly or via
>>>>>>>> taxes), usually underpowered and always one-size-fits-all network
>>>>>>>> access which results. As an ISP I watched something similar happen
>> in
>>>>>>>> Altoona PA a decade and a half ago. It was a travesty.
>>>>>>>> The only exception I see to this would be if localities were
>>>>>>>> constrained to providing point to point and point to multipoint
>>>>>>>> communications infrastructure within the locality on a reasonable
>> and
>>>>>>>> non-discriminatory basis. The competition that would foster on the
>>>>>>>> services side might outweigh the damage on the infrastructure side.
>>>>>>>> Like public roads facilitate efficient transportation and freight
>>>>>>>> despite the cost and potholes, though that's an imperfect simile.
>>>>>>>> Regards,
>>>>>>>> Bill Herrin
>>>>>>>> --
>>>>>>>> William Herrin ................ herrin at bill at
>>>>>>>> Owner, Dirtside Systems ......... Web: <>
>>>>>>>> Can I solve your unusual networking challenges?
>>> --
>>> ================================================================
>>> Aaron Wendel
>>> Chief Technical Officer
>>> Wholesale Internet, Inc. (AS 32097)
>>> (816)550-9030
>>> ================================================================
>> --
>> Ray Patrick Soucy
>> Network Engineer
>> University of Maine System
>> T: 207-561-3526
>> F: 207-561-3531
>> MaineREN, Maine's Research and Education Network

More information about the NANOG mailing list