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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48 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | MARCH/APRIL 2017 RURAL BROADBAND Fiber in Kent County A partnership among a county government, a regional dark fiber network and a retail service provider is a win-win-win deal. The biggest winners are the county residents making a quantum leap from dial-up to FTTH. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities K ent County, Maryland, has spectacular views of the Chesapeake Bay and (by many accounts) the best crab cakes in the state. However, like many rural areas, Kent County – and Maryland's Eastern Shore in general – has suffered from poor broadband. ough some of the county's 20,000 residents have access to cellular broadband, satellite, fixed wireless or even cable, none has proven adequate, especially for business needs. Jamie Williams, the county's economic development coordinator, cites a litany of business complaints she has heard over the years: "ey had service but no backup service, or they had lots of downtime, or their service wasn't fast enough, or they had cable right in front of them but it would cost $10,000 to bring it 200 feet to the building." By 2013, the economic development advisory board identified the lack of broadband as the No. 1 issue for economic development in Kent County. at's when Scott Boone, the county IT director, got involved and made it his mission to "get something done" about broadband. After taking a crash course in the technology and economics of fiber optic networks and documenting the need for broadband throughout the county, Boone made a presentation to the county commissioners in January 2015. He recommended that the county build a fiber backbone and lease it to internet service providers. e plan depended on a partnership with the Maryland Broadband Cooperative, a nonprofit statewide dark fiber network that could be used for transport. FISHING FOR WHALES Impressed by the presentation, the commissioners agreed to set aside money for the network and instructed Boone to find the right model for service delivery. Rather than decide up front what the right model should look like, Boone gave potential partners the opportunity to propose various models. He explains, "We issued an RFP that opened the funnel wide and allowed all kinds of proposals." One respondent was a dark fiber provider called FTS Fiber, which was planning a fiber ring to connect Ashburn, Virginia (site of a major internet exchange point), with Virginia Beach (a new landing point for transoceanic cables). e eastern half of the ring was to go through the Delmarva Peninsula, which includes Maryland's Eastern Shore. "We had a lot of international traffic, and some major anchor tenants – enterprises and ISPs – were interested in connecting Ashburn and Virginia Beach," explains Blake Hargest, FTS Fiber's marketing manager. FTS originally planned for its fiber ring to cross the Chesapeake south of Kent County, but once the RFP came out, the company realized it could cross the bay to Kent County instead. "is was perfect timing for us," Hargest says. "It happened just while we were putting the business strategy together." In its response to the RFP, FTS proposed to install 110 miles of fiber in Kent County,