I am about to inherit 26 miles of dark fiber. What do I do with it?


A job opportunity just came my way to work with 26 miles of dark fiber in and around a city in Texas.

The intent is for me to deliver internet and private network services to business customers in this area.

I relish the thought of starting from scratch to build a network right from the start instead of inheriting and fixing someone else's mess.

That being said, what suggestions does the group have for building a new network using existing dark fiber?

MPLS backbone? Like all businesses these days, I will likely have to build the lit backbone as I add customers. So how would you recommend scaling the network?

I have six strands of SMF that connect within municipal facilities. Each new customer will be a new build out from the nearest point. Because of having only six strands, I don't anticipate selling dark fiber. I believe I need to conserve fibers so that it would be lit services that I offer to customers.

I would like to offer speeds up to 10 GB.

Thoughts are appreciated!


Lorell Hathcock

The below is a really sad story. Condolences on the coming trainwreck. I
hope you get someone on staff or on consult that understands outside plant
architecture, because it is much more important and complex topic than you
seem to realize.


26 miles is not a long distance when working with fiber. I would have just
one active POPs (or two for redundancy). Use DWDM to expand your 6 strands
into as many links as you need. You could also use GPON with splitters,
although that will only deliver 1 Gbps (on a shared 2.4 Gbps) at this time.

DWDM allows you to sell "colored links" to customers, that they can do
anything with.

MPLS might be overdoing it or not, depending on your background and
experience. Using VLANs or layer 3 routing might get you the same thing. I
would say the proposed network is small enough that you could get away with
just about anything. Just remember that you need to protect your network
from customers. Eg. you are using STP and the customer enables STP, you
could very well end up with a disaster if not careful. Many network
protocols have zero security and many switch configurations are vulnerable
to simple mistakes by default.



WoW !.. that was a rather cruel and un-called for !

How does that saying go.....Don't say anything, if you cannot say anything nice !

Faisal Imtiaz
Snappy Internet & Telecom

Hey come on. Yes it is complex but not impossible to learn "on the job".
You have absolutely no knowledge of his skills and know almost nothing
about the project. How can you say anything about the impossibility of
overcoming the challenges ahead?

One thing that amazes me about NANOG is that while you often do get
valuable advice, you also get a ton of hatemail from daring to ask or voice
an opinion.



How is the outside plant being built and supported? Who fixes fiber cuts? Who manages the fiber-cut-fixers? Who monitors the network and handles initial triage to determine if there is a fiber cut, as opposed to a hardware/optic failure?

Those questions lead to many others, such as who has documentation and as-built drawings for the fiber plant? Are all of the access agreements, insurance certificates, letters of agency, etc. up to date and accurate?


I would suggest that you do some rapid field deployment education in regards to fiber networks.

You might consider joining WISPA and or FISPA (two industry associations), where you have folks building out fiber networks, who are very willing to share their experience and tell you what is working and what is not working.

Working with Dark fiber can be as simple as you like, or as complicated as you want it to be. However this is one area that it is not un-common to make things appear a lot more expensive and complicated then what they have to be...

Depending on what you are inheriting, and what you have to be responsible for, I would suggest that you spend some time on the web, local library, and some of the OSP related publications to get a good understanding of what is done and why....before just falling for industry jargon.

I should be fun... :slight_smile:

Faisal Imtiaz
Snappy Internet & Telecom

I would say the OP is starting out right by reaching out to people who can
give advice and point him in the right direction. I would say the first
place to start would be budget.

I don't think calling this is a trainwreck before it even leaves paper
isn't very helpful.

One option might be to start in phases, if his POPs can provide decent
coverage, maybe start out w/ a wireless solution to start getting customers
on the system and start getting revenue coming in (or if this is a
city/town backed venture, get voters to see how useful this can be to maybe
get more budget for future rollout).

Also talk to business customers to see if you extend fiber to them, what
kind of services will they want. If you can get large customers to say
"Yes, I will or would like to purchase a gig of bandwidth between two
office or a gig of Internet access", that should help w/ either city or
private finance backing to show there will be demand.

You might even be able to get help from some companies (If you contact
corporate or gov't sales for Cisco/Nortel/etc., they can probably have some
techs bring in some equipment for small scale shows).

If this is a city trying to do this, reach out to places like Chattanooga,
TN or Lafayette, LA or any number of other cities (mostly in foreign
countries) that have successfully done this.

On a final note, the Stockholm model I've always thought was the best idea
(even before I heard Stockholm invested in it) - Stockholm owns the
infrastructure and private companies provide the actual customer services
across the city owned infrastructure (let true competition happen instead
of the monopoly and duopoly in most cities and if it doesn't work out, you
can always start selling services later if true competition doesn't work).
(This was the most up to date page I could find in English doing a


Municipal fiber networks can be total failures or the best investment a
community can make. It all depends on the implementation.

There are eight steps one needs to get right: 1) public policy goals, 2)
technical goals meet the public policy goals, 3) survey community
demographics and existing network assets, 4) build community consensus, 5)
select the right business plan and obtain funding, 6) technical design of
OSP and operating structure, 7) RFI/RFP, 8)select EPC vendors and
fanatically oversee construction.

Steps 1-5 are the most important and the level of success will depend on
the quality of their implementation. If a half-assed job is done at any
step, the outcome will not be good. This discussion has been focused on
step 6: technical design. It is impossible to do a good technical design if
you don't understand the problem you are trying to solve.

There are vast differences between different municipalities public policy
goals and business plans. It doesn't make sense to copy Chattanooga's
implementation because their situation is different than yours (you have an
existing fiber network, which is always a warning sign. They are serving
all residents and businesses and you imply you are focused on businesses.)

Focus on developing a deep understanding of what problem the city leaders
are trying to solve, then figure out how to hire a competent OSP design
person and make them do a good job. This is a hard task in and of itself.

The failure of one municipal broadband system reflects badly on all
municipal broadband systems. Good luck.

I never said copy Chattanooga's implementation, I just said reach out to
them. While every city is different, he might be able to find out problems
other cities had and how they got around those issues.

Maybe he might get a few problems/fixes from Chattanooga that might help,
maybe a few from Lafayette, maybe none. Maybe he might find something in
one of those cities implementations that he thinks would help his, maybe
not. Maybe one of them had good or bad experiences w/ a consultant that he
might want to use or stay away from. Taking a few extra days to learn
about people's successes (Hell, I would even call the cities that failed to
see someone can say why they failed) might help the OP out. It never hurts
to call or email them.

Misc thoughts...

I don't know your background, but I recommend you get with the EFF and/or SANS and get a good idea of possible legal ramifications, e.g. if you choose to be an internet provider vs. an internet services provider vs. a private network provider or a telecommunications service or some mixture. These choices can really change the legal (and business) landscape for you.

If you have a CISSP or equivalent, then you probably know what you are doing from a security standpoint. If not, then I recommend you proceed with caution--maybe take an intensive general course: physical security, protecting your customers, providing extra security services (IPS, DDOS protection, etc.).

Throw some money in the pot for monthly emergencies. Road work. Backhoes. Fibre splicing. Bad pink boxen. Converters. FX modules. Extra switches for fast swap-outs. A fast car and a fast technician who is fast with duct tape and bubble gum.

Network Diagnostics
You'll be doing a lot of proving "it isn't me." Get a fast laptop with an outstanding NIC and make sure you are up to speed with Wireshark and presentations. If you aren't a wizard with Wireshark, then take the 4-12 hours it takes to become one: memorize the hot keys, figure out the advanced filtering, etc. NMAP and SOCAT as well--you'll want to be able to show that your voodoo works, and perhaps even point the finger towards the real problems.

A Nice Suit
Don't underestimate the power of a nice suit. It reassures your customers. And that'll be 50% of your job. It's all about professionalism until they get to know you.

Your Audience
If your audience is 90% gamers, you might consider putting together a gamer's NOC. Web page showing pings and lag for various games... traffic flows, bandwidth, switch utilization, the most popular servers, info. Maybe host some games on local servers. Put together a small VMWare Cloud just for that.

If your audience is 90% online retail, maybe put in a Secure Zone, a DMZ they can host behind, maybe some Palo Alto firewalls that do WAP (web app protection) and SQL Protection and etc. Or just use an active IPS.


Good luck!

+1 to what Faisal said.

And before you take possession I recommend you do a thorough fibre test. Check for all aspects of the fibre--signal deterioration and etc. "Shoot the fibre" and map it out, it's strengths and weaknesses, so you know what you are dealing with.

--Patrick Darden

While short and to the point, what Fletcher said is likely to be the
best advice in this thread.

Getting someone on staff who understands *both* outside plant
architecture and balance sheets... and can co-develop a business
model that involves the lateral build-out from the six POPs around
town without going broke is the hard part.

"Six POPs, six strands, MPLS backbone vs. selling waves" could be the
concept for the opening lines to a sad country song where the
protagonist doesn't realize that the long pole in the tent is the
making the edge work (someone please run with this and get a musical
lightning talk at San Antonio!)


Faisal Imtiaz <faisal@snappytelecom.net> writes:

+1 on both the good advice and the proposal of the musical talk :slight_smile:


"Goodwill" != "nice". Goodwill is respect, honesty and a genuine concern
for a positive outcome. "nice" is frequently concentrating more on avoiding
conflict than on a good outcome. I care more than most about the outcome
than most because I will share your failure. I will be sitting on some
panel having to explain why the failure of your town's system isn't
indicative of the failure of all municipal broadband, just as I now have to
explain Provo, UT, Burlington, VT,
Minn; and Dunnellon and Quincy, Fla

Patrick Darden's comments on getting good legal advice and security design
are great points. Municipal broadband is governed by federal, state and
municipal laws. The last two vary widely... Fiber ownership, overlash
rights, additional pole attachment. Stay in telecommunications space and
out of electrical space if you can.

Join the FTTH Council; it is very cheap for what you get. The resources
available to members are extensive; concentrate on the public policy and
business resources (disclaimer: I speak at their conferences on financing).
www.muninetworks.org is another, though it comes with a perspective.

Any technical advice from this forum is suspect because not enough has been
shared about the goals of the project to make any technical choices.
However, there are some general technical goals that all projects should
examine, if only to discard them:

1) Expandability: We are in the early days of gigabit fiber networks and
your network should last at least 20 years. Design in such a way that your
network can grow significantly. Issues include fiber count, connection
architecture, slack loops for many modifications. If you are building a
"business only" network, think through how it would be expanded to all
residential customers at a later date. By definition infrastructure is a
shared resource and the more users the greater the value and the lower cost
per user. Plan to share any infrastructure you design with everyone.

2) Flexibility: don't assume today's uses will be tomorrow's uses. Can you
switch from passive to active if that is required later? You inherited a
fiber plant that I bet you are going to find is insufficient to the task.
Learn from that and don't pass on the same mess to later generations.

3) Open access, preferably dark fiber. Long discussion, but I think there
is a compelling case that the best systems are usually open access dark
fiber. See "flexibility" and "expandability" above and "network
consolidation" below.

4) Plan for network consolidation. Every other network built in the past
has gone through a network consolidation phase: telegraph, railroads,
electrical, telephone, cable. The network economies of scale are so
enormous that no single, small network can match them. Plan for that future
and use a standard OSP design that matches the networks around you.

That's pretty much the best honest answer.

If all else fail, sell it or leased it to someone whom can do that.

+1 There are several guys doing Fiber. WISPA has workshops and such as