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Strategies for Interconnecting Middle-Mile and Last-Mile Fiber Critical Amid COVID19 Pandemic

Jericho Casper

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Screenshot of Greg Green, CEO of Fatbeam

September 25, 2020 — Understanding and developing strategies for interconnecting middle-mile and last-mile networks has become even more critical since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with many across the country currently aiming to expand last-mile fiber networks in urban and rural America.

A panel of experts, representing middle-mile fiber network providers, detailed optimal strategies for managing the logistics of middle-mile, last-mile interconnects, during a webinar that aired as part of Broadband Communities 2020 Virtual Summit on Wednesday.

Greg Green, CEO of Fatbeam, said that when planning where to construct the network interconnect, it is crucial to account for anchor institutions, which require higher bandwidth, saying “when establishing themselves and thinking about interconnecting to a middle-mile provider, a local community network should consider school and hospital districts.”

Anchor institutions, like education and healthcare facilities, not only require higher bandwidth and reliable connections, but they can be a source of securing federal monies to assist in the construction process.

“Leverage federal and state grants,” urged Mark Wagner, CEO of ThinkBig. Green specifically called for individuals aiming to connect school districts with no fiber assets, to utilize the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program.

The panelists, which operate middle-mile networks across many regions, discussed how different considerations must be taken in rural and urban markets.

According to Wagner, there is a great amount of competition in urban markets, but, in rural markets, project managers can get more creative with local co-ops.

If you’re in an urban market, straying away from the norm could mean paving over an entire street again. Yet, in a rural market, you can “freely and openly think about how you’re going to connect,” and which route will do the greatest good.

“When we interconnect to another carrier in rural areas, we try to create diversity,” detailed Green, adding that Fatbeam doesn’t “want to use same conduit everyone is using.”

“There is value in approaching it from that perspective,” said Dennis Kyle, senior vice president of Zayo, “if you can devise a unique solution, you can drive more value from it,” by serving more previously unserved populations.

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