Open Access

I’ve recently been fielding queries about Open Access, and what it means for Community Broadband providers.

My article in Lightwave Magazine discusses trade-offs and implementation, as well as touching on rationale and business models, for Open Access networks.  Since I wrote it, Open Access has continued to be featured in Community Broadband RFPs.

Most municipalities and co-ops would be well-advised to avoid being in the Internet Service Provider business.   ISPs must provide a wide variety of customer service,  operations, network administration, network engineering and network security functions. Doing so requires acquiring  a staff with relevant skill sets, some of them on a 24×7 basis. Economies of scale matter. While larger municipal electric providers like those in Chattanooga, TN and Norwood, MA can support ISP operation, smaller community broadband projects  often cannot.

Many consumers still insist on “triple-play” services (Internet +TV + voice).  Pay television is no longer an attractive business, because of rising program costs and “cord cutting”.   Some analysts claim that the current business model is collapsing.   Small and emerging providers are distinctly disadvantaged in this space. Again, economies of scale matter, especially for leverage with content providers.  So do depreciated capital assets. At present, there is little upside to the TV business for  new community broadband networks.

Having decided not to be an ISP or triple-play provider, community broadband providers have several options for supporting these service providers.   Most relevant to this discussion, they can contract those operations out to a single third party service provider, which in turn provides Internet and Triple-Play under the community’s brand.  Alternatively, they can wholesale network capacity to multiple third-party service providers, each of which provides service under its own brand. The wholesale model is a defining characteristic of Open Access.  Both approaches have been used.  Of course, there are pros- and cons- to each, and trade-offs between them.

Well established FTTx networking technologies provide solid support for separation of Service Provider from Network and Infrastructure provider.  Again, there are numerous options.  Recently, the trend toward Software Defined Networks (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), network Cloud, “white box” hardware and open-source software has created new ways of envisioning Service Provider/Network provider delineation.  These architectural models promise to support a variety of potentially interesting business models.

I’d be happy to talk with you about all of the options and which one works best for your situation.  Contact me at info@netaccessfutures.net.

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