This summer, Broadband Communities Magazine published its list of 135 municipalities that have invested in their own FTTH networks. In the May/June issue, Masha Zager finds that a growing number of communities are building fiber to the home networks. Subscriptions to the magazine are available here.
In her accompanying article [PDF], Zager describes her precise criteria for inclusion on the list:
All the network deployers on this list
• Are public entities, consortia of public entities, consortia of public and private entities or, in a few cases, private entities that benefited from significant investment or participation by local governments.
• Own all-fiber networks that connect local homes or businesses to the Internet (or are actively developing such networks).
• Make available – directly or through retailers – such services as voice, Internet access or video (or are planning such services).
Zager left out commuities with Institutional Networks (I-Nets) that only serve government or schools. The list also omits communities that only lease dark fiber and those that provide services over cable or wireless.
The article discusses commonalities between municipal network communities, including the fact that many communities first run their own electric utility. Often I-Nets come first, serving municipal facilities, schools, and libraries. Next the network will serve commercial and industrial clients. Expansion to single and multi-dwelling households is usually the last step in community connectivity. As our readers know, the deployment and funding approaches can be as unique as the communities they serve.
Zager notes that a growing trend shows larger cities entering the telecommunications business. In the past, networks graced primarily small to mid-sized communities. Those communities were large enough to have necessary resources, but small enough to be ignored by major telecommunications providers.
The article also describes different types of partnerships between the public and private sectors as a way to find the right business model for delivering services. As Zager notes, state law can limits available options by creating barriers and unique regulations that only apply to publicly owned entities.
As we found in our research, FTTH networks are geographically concentrated. The census used to compile BBP Mag's data, showed nearly half of all networks located in only seven states. Zager also discussed the variety of offerings from municipal FTTH networks. She noted that some open access networks seek vendors to offer diverse services beyond triple play:
For example, on St. Joe Valley Metronet, 30 providers deliver 20 different types of services, including such offerings as conferencing, disaster recovery and video surveillance. Enabling a wide variety of broadband services could become a way to make more community networks financially viable. If this strategy succeeds, more municipal networks – at least larger networks – may follow suit.
Zager's article is a good resource to share with those who may not be well-versed in the world of municipal FTTH networks. She concentrates on some major trends and provides just enough detail to whet a curious appetite. Recommended.