FairPoint sees school districts, business premise wiring demands rising

FairPoint is getting more requests to perform premise wiring services as more school districts submit their E-Rate funding applications for 2016.

Under the FCC's E-Rate order that was issued in 2015, the regulator amended the eligible services list to support the equal treatment of lit and dark fiber services. What this means is that local school districts will be able to purchase either kind of service depending on their specific needs via an FCC Form 470 application.

Adopting more of these services will require schools to wire their buildings to support higher speed services.

Chris Alberding, VP of product management at FairPoint Communications, told FierceInstaller although it has not launched a formal product designed for schools yet, the service provider has developed a solution to be ready as the E-Rate RFP season gets underway.

"For E-rate season, we have not launched the product yet, but for E-Rate we needed to get out there because they put in their 470 applications now and make their decisions in May and June so we had to start talking about it in advance," Alberding said. "We probably about 20-30 for wiring related to E-Rate already."

While many service providers stopped providing such services to enterprises FairPoint says it is happy to offer such services.

The timing of the E-Rate demand comes on the heels of FairPoint creating its new Construction Solutions division in 2015.

Besides offering small cell as a service (SCaaS) for wireless operators, the service provider's Construction Solutions division will also support structured cabling and inside wiring to accommodate a wholesale customer's installation for new or existing networks, user installs, campus wiring or wiring to support wireless access points. It can support wireless network upgrades at existing FairPoint wireless access points or help a wholesale customer create new wireless access points.

Having these services on hand will enable FairPoint, which has been growing its base of Ethernet and IP-based services like hosted PBX, to potentially simplify the installation and turn up process for new and existing business customers.

"Every time we get closer and deeper inside the customer premise, we have to bring in third parties," Alberding said. "We're telling the customer 'you need to get a wiring vendor to run conduit or get a construction vendor.'"

Alberding added that while a number of traditional service providers stopped providing premise wiring services to focus on providing circuits to business customers, FairPoint is reclaiming its stake in this segment.

"Oddly enough it's the telcos who created that because if you think about it 25 years ago telcos were running their own wiring to customers and backed away from that and created an industry of wiring vendors," Alberding said. "FairPoint is saying 'look we know how much of a lift it is for a customer to do and we'll take it off your hands' and we'll do all of the coordination with one bill."

In addition to E-Rate clients, the service provider expects that the demand for its premise wiring services will likely rise as more of its business customers adopt its hosted PBX service. The hosted PBX service runs over a FairPoint Ethernet connection using FairPoint's managed devices installed on the customer premises.

To operate the service, FairPoint has to install Cat 5 or Cat 6 cable throughout a customer premises to provide connectivity to each of the IP-based desktop phones, something that the telco says is typically lacking at new customer locations.

Having the right wiring and power at a customer location for business services benefits not only the customer, but also enabling FairPoint to get the installation done correctly the first time.

"Our biggest challenge is that with every hosted PBX we're going to sell is going to require some sort of wiring because you're guaranteed that the customer does not have Cat 5 or Cat 6 cable where they have every phone," ALberding said. "Generally, you're replacing analog phones with digital or IP phones so they'll need Cat 5 or Cat 6."

At one specific customer site, FairPoint found that one hosted PBX customer did not install the proper power outlet. As a result the switch that supported the service could not work correctly.

"We went out to a customer two weeks ago and we had told him that 'you need to have a dedicated power circuit and a punch down block so we can run our circuit,'" Alberding said. "When the tech shows up, the customer connected six power strips from a wall outlet and the power was fluctuating and it kept resetting the switch and the customer was upset because it was not working and it's not working because this is not a dedicated power circuit."

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