FCC looks at open access fiber

Bringing fiber-based services to anchor tenants (hospitals, libraries and schools) has become a major focus and concern of both communities and congressional leaders lately, but now the FCC wants to get a handle on what the actual costs of building out these networks are. Looking to expand broadband availability by providing either wholesale services to smaller telcos or directly to anchor institutions, various communities have been either building out these so-called open access networks or have applied for government broadband stimulus funding.

Examples of the open access fiber drive include the OpenCape network initiative in Massachusetts and the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina (MCNC). Already providing North Carolina-based K-12 schools and colleges through the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), MCNC has applied for funding to not only expand the NCREN, but also provide wholesale network services to other local CLECs and independent ILECs to expand broadband availability in underserved communities.

The FCC now wants input on a presentation published by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that estimates that the cost of open community fiber networks would be between $5-10 billion. Moreover, the Gates Foundation concluded bringing fiber to anchor institution sites could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 per site.  

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