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What Are Municipal Fiber Networks?

Wade Anderson - Jun 19, 2019 11:00:00 AM

What Are Municipal Fiber Networks (featured image)

Many communities today choose to build their own publicly owned telecommunications infrastructure rather than rely on external developers. These networks, known as “municipal fiber networks,” are owned by local governments and are viable alternatives to the services provided by private telecom giants.

Often times, municipal fiber networks provide residents and businesses with faster internet, more choice, and lower subscription costs. Communities can deliver broadband services directly to the home through FTTH networks and spark economic development for local businesses. Municipal networks promote competition as numerous service providers are able to compete in a single market.

Local governments can design their networks to meet the specific needs and goals of their communities. For example, a small, rural town may choose to build a municipal network solely for use by public service organizations. In other communities, leaders may invest in fiber networks for the purpose of attracting innovative companies and young talent to the area.

There are several ways that municipalities approach open-access fiber network deployment. Some choose to build active networks and then lease cable capacity to private ISPs. Others build “dark” networks and leave ISPs to light up the infrastructure themselves. The model that a local government selects depends on the needs and preferences of the community.

Today, 500 communities receive broadband internet through municipal networks, many of which are powered by a signal relaying technique, called mesh networking. Instead of following the traditional hub-and-spoke connectivity model, municipal networks use access points and transmitters to extend signal to other access points in the network. As a result, municipal networks can scale quickly and overcome connectivity issues as a result of built-in redundancies.  

Municipal fiber networks have gained popularity over the years as they help close the “digital divide” that exists in many communities. In markets where private ISPs dominate broadband services, subscription costs can prevent many households from getting high-speed internet, a prerequisite for keeping up with today’s fast-changing world. In rural areas where private ISP coverage is limited, municipal networks pose a solution for communities that still depend on dial-up. As the world grows increasingly dependent on internet-based innovation, those without access to high-speed, fiber broadband will fall further behind.

Although many communities have embraced municipal networks, there are some who advocate against them. Major ISPs lobby against municipal fiber networks, arguing that they expose internet users to privacy risks. In addition, they label publicly owned fiber networks as an sub-optimal use of taxpayer dollars. Currently, 26 states have laws that prevent localities from investing in their own telecommunication infrastructure.

As a network operator, it’s important to understand the various ways that broadband connectivity can be delivered to different communities. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to delivering high-speed internet. In the current day and age, you need to be able to manage fiber networks of all sizes, from small, municipal networks to large-scale, private networks.

Fortunately, there are fiber management platforms out there that can support any network, no matter the complexity or owner. To learn more about how OSPInsight can help you manage your municipal fiber network, click here.

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