BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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34 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014 FTTH DEPLOYMENT Fatbeam and Intermax Bring Fiber to Idaho Towns Using schools as anchor tenants, a competitive provider is building metro fber networks in small Western cities – and partnering with last-mile providers to serve homes and small businesses. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities A collaboration between a metro fber network builder and a rural microwave provider is beginning to deliver fber to the home to multifamily housing in small Idaho cities. Tis model shows how creative fnancing and partnerships can make FTTH business models work even in unlikely places. Fatbeam, a competitive provider that launched in 2010, builds metro fber rings in third-tier markets (populations of 25,000 to 100,000) and fourth-tier markets (populations of 5,000 to 25,000) in the Pacifc Northwest and the Rocky Mountains – markets that were not previously served by fber – and serves community anchor institutions in those markets. To date, it has built more than 300 miles of fber infrastructure in more than 15 markets. "Fatbeam's mission is to provide high-speed Internet connectivity to more rural areas and, in doing so, enhancing education opportunities, delivering greater public safety and driving economic growth while also maintaining proftability," explains Greg Green, the company's president. Fatbeam's model is to identify a market it can proftably serve and then bid on an E-Rate contract for the school district. E-Rate, formally the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, subsidizes connectivity for K–12 schools and libraries at amounts that vary based on local income levels and other factors. When Fatbeam wins an E-Rate contract, it builds a metro fber network specifcally for the schools and then extends the network to serve hospitals, factories, data centers, government ofces or other large customers that want either dark fber or Gigabit Ethernet connections. Each metro network is connected to a long-haul fber route so the communities don't become little fber "islands" cut of from the rest of the Internet. Changes the FCC made to the E-Rate program in 2010, following the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan, gave schools more fexibility in connecting to fber optic networks and made schools more aware of the benefts of fber. Fatbeam and similar providers who win E-Rate contracts can use school districts as anchor tenants for metro fber networks – and, as Green says, "you really need to have an anchor tenant for the network to make fnancial sense." Although Fatbeam doesn't serve homes or small businesses directly, in each community it looks for a partner to lease some of its fber and provide retail broadband services. One of those partners is Intermax, a company that was founded 11 years ago as a rural microwave provider. Intermax originally leased fber from Fatbeam to backhaul fber from its own towers. "Our anchor tenant was ourselves," says Mike Kennedy, president of Intermax. In the process BBC_Jan14.indd 34 1/27/14 1:44 PM