Open Access Broadband: Bringing choice and connectivity to communities

Access to high-speed internet has become essential for individuals, businesses, and communities to thrive in today’s increasingly digital world. However, in many areas of the United States, private providers are not building fiber infrastructure at a pace that meets the growing demand for reliable broadband services. This gap in connectivity poses significant challenges, particularly in rural regions where low subscriber density makes it less economically viable for private providers to invest.

To address this issue, many local leaders are exploring alternative options to ensure their residents are not left behind in the digital age. One increasingly popular solution is the adoption of Open Access broadband networks. This model, which has gained traction globally and is now making its mark in the USA, aims to give communities greater control over their digital infrastructure while promoting competition and choice among service providers.

Understanding Open Access Broadband

At its core, the Open Access model is built on the principle of separating the various layers of a broadband network:

  1. Infrastructure Layer: This layer consists of the physical cables and conduits that make up the network. Often referred to as the “Passive” layer, it forms the foundation upon which the network is built.
  2. Operations Layer: Also known as the “Active” layer, this involves lighting up the physical network with electronics and ensuring its proper functioning. It includes tasks such as network management, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
  3. Services Layer: This layer encompasses the various services delivered over the network, such as internet, phone, TV, telehealth, home security, and IoT services. By separating this layer, communities can offer consumers a wide range of services from multiple providers.

Common Models of Open Access Broadband

  1. Dark Fiber Open Access: The community provides the passive infrastructure layer (dark fiber) and allows private providers to lease access and use it as they wish. This model is akin to building highways for private use.
  2. Dark Fiber Middle Mile Open Access: The community builds fiber in streets, while private providers bring electronics to light up services and connect homes. This model extends infrastructure to neighborhoods.
  3. Dark Fiber Last Mile Open Access: The community builds all-fiber infrastructure and leases it to private providers, who operate the network and sell services to customers. This model ensures widespread fiber connectivity.
  4. Lit Open Access – Single Provider: The community builds the entire fiber network, invests in electronics up to customers’ premises, and invites service providers to resell services on wholesale terms. Customers have the freedom to choose providers.
  5. True Open Access (Lit Open Access – Multiple Providers): Customers have complete freedom to choose between providers and services on a granular level. This model maximizes consumer choice and fosters competition.

The Role of COS Business Engine

COS Business Engine is a software platform designed to support the operations of True Open Access Networks. Since its launch in 2008, it has been instrumental in automating network operations and enabling around 150 True Open Access Networks worldwide.


Open Access broadband represents a transformative approach to community connectivity, offering consumers choice, competition, and control over their digital future. By embracing this model and leveraging innovative solutions like COS Business Engine, communities can bridge the digital divide and pave the way for a more inclusive and connected society.

Learn More About Open Access Networks

To explore the concept of Open Access Networks and their benefits for your community, check out our resources: