Facebook is laying fiber across the width of Indiana to connect a couple of its own data centers, and it will lease excess capacity on the fiber to telcos or other providers that are interested.
Facebook has completed the first phase the build, laying over 77 miles of fiber to connect the I-70 corridor from the Indiana/Ohio border to downtown Indianapolis. Phase One was 100% funded by Facebook via its wholly-owned subsidiary Middle Mile Infrastructure.
The 77 miles of fiber that runs from Interstate Highway 70 at the Indiana/Ohio border through Marion, Hancock, Henry, and Wayne Counties to downtown Indianapolis will connect Facebook’s data centers in Iowa and Nebraska to its East Coast cluster in Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina.
The social media company is also planning a second phase with its partner Zayo. Phase Two will include a new 85-mile build that will connect downtown Indianapolis to the Illinois state line. For the second phase of this build, Facebook is partnering with the fiber company Zayo. Phase Two will head west from Indianapolis through Vigo, Clay, Putnam, Hendricks and Marion Counties.
Both phases are slated to be complete by the end of 2021, at which time Indiana will have a fiber route via Facebook that spans the state from east to west.
Michele Kohler, strategic sourcing manager at Facebook, told Fierce via email that Facebook sometimes leases existing fiber. “We take a pragmatic approach to solving connectivity and utilize many different methods,” said Kohler. “If there is existing fiber available, our preference is to work with the partner to access it. To support our 3B+ users around the world takes a lot of network. We buy a lot from partners and where we need to, we build.”
Kohler said Facebook has 13 data center locations in the U.S., and eight are operational.
Leasing excess capacity to telcos
“We intend to allow third parties — including local and regional providers — to purchase excess capacity on our fiber,” stated a Facebook blog today. “This capacity could provide additional network infrastructure to existing and emerging broadband providers, helping them extend middle-mile networks to many parts of the country, particularly in underserved rural areas near our fiber backbones.”
Kohler said the company is currently engaged in discussions with third parties about leasing opportunities in Indiana.
This isn’t Facebook’s first foray into building long-haul fiber in the United States. According to a 2019 blog posting, Facebook built a 200-mile fiber route to connect two of its data centers: one in New Mexico and one in Texas.
At that time, Facebook said, “Unlike a retail telecommunications provider, we will not be providing services directly to consumers. Our goal is to support the operators that provide such services to consumers. We will reserve a portion for our own use and make the excess available to others. This means you’ll start to see a Facebook subsidiary, Middle Mile Infrastructure, operating as a wholesale provider (or, where necessary, as a telecommunications carrier).
Asked if Facebook will be competing with long-haul fiber providers such as Lumen, Windstream and Zayo, Kohler said, “We build networks with the primary goal of meeting our own needs. Selling fiber is not our core business, and we view companies like those as partners. However, we want to help underserved areas and where we can leverage underutilized capacity to improve connectivity through partners, we will.”