What is Dark Fiber?

Dark Fiber refers to unused fiber optic cables that have been laid but are inactive. These cables are termed “dark” because they are not “lit” by the equipment needed to transmit data. Communities and organizations often invest in dark fiber as a long-term infrastructure strategy, anticipating future needs for increased bandwidth.

Dark Fiber in Network Infrastructure

In network terminology, there are three main segments:

  1. Backbone: Comparable to highways, these are major routes connecting cities and regions.
  2. Middle Mile: These routes distribute data within a specific area, like city streets.
  3. Last Mile (or Drop): These driveways connect individual homes to the network.

Dark Fiber Backbone Open Access Model

In the Dark Fiber Backbone Open Access model, a community invests in the passive infrastructure layer—primarily the backbone—and allows private service providers to lease access. This model ensures that the community has the necessary infrastructure to attract private investment without needing to manage the active network components.

Pros of Dark Fiber Backbone Open Access
  • Cost Efficiency: Minimal investment is required to improve broadband quality.
  • Simplified Operations: No need for network operations knowledge or electronic equipment investment.
  • Private Investment Encouragement: Potentially reduces costs enough to attract private providers to invest in the community.
Cons of Dark Fiber Backbone Open Access
  • Uncertain Provider Commitment: No guarantee that providers will build out the network.
  • Selective Coverage: Providers may only invest in profitable areas, leaving some residents without service.
  • Dependence on Providers: Community services may not reach all residents without agreements with private providers.
  • Limited Customer Choice: High initial investment by the first provider creates a barrier to new entrants, leading to potential monopolistic issues such as high prices and low service quality.

The Road System Analogy

To better understand the Dark Fiber model, consider the following analogy:

  • The backbone is like the highways connecting cities, ensuring regional connectivity.
  • The middle mile is akin to the smaller streets within a city, distributing traffic.
  • The last mile is like the driveways at homes, connecting individual residences to the larger network.

Without the backbone, a city cannot effectively connect to the global network, and without the middle mile, houses have nothing to connect to. In the Dark Fiber model, the community invests in the backbone, enabling private providers to build out the middle and last mile as needed.

How COS Business Engine Supports Dark Fiber Open Access

Our COS Business Engine software enables communities to manage their dark fiber infrastructure efficiently. By providing a platform for leasing and managing access to dark fiber, it ensures that private providers can easily utilize this infrastructure to deliver high-quality services to end-users.

Learn More About Dark Fiber

To explore the concept of dark fiber and its benefits for your community, check out our resources: