Backhaul and Edge Cases

Backhaul is the connection between a town network and the internet at large. Edge cases are situations where premises in one town currently receive electric and phone service on lines from an adjacent town. Both of these will be impacted not only by whether a town is in WiredWest, but also whether its neighbors are. Here is an explanation of WiredWest’s backhaul plans and considerations for edge cases.

WiredWest Backhaul

The world of internet transport is divided into 3 segments or tiers.  Tier 1 companies are companies that own national and international networks.  Tier 2 companies own regional networks and tier 3 companies own local networks.  Your town’s fiber network will be a tier 3 network.  The MB123 network is a tier 2 network and is called a middle mile because it is used to connect the tier 3 network, your network, to the tier 1 networks. The tier 2 network is also referred to as a backhaul network because it is used to haul the data from the tier 3 network to the tier 1 network and back.  All of the tier 1 networks are interconnected so that a request from your computer for a particular website can be routed through your tier 3 network, through the tier 2 network and out into the tier 1 networks to get to the final destination and then back to you.

A tier 3 operator must pay the tier 2 and tier 1 operators for the use of their networks by either buying “lit” service or dark fiber.  When the tier 3 provider buys “lit” services from the tier 2 and tier 1 providers these providers charge a monthly fee  based on a fixed bandwidth or number of bits per second.  So to purchase a 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) “lit” service on the MB123 network MBI charges $1200 per month and a 10 Gigabit per second lit service is $9600 per month.  To purchase 1 Gigabit per second service from a tier 1 provider the cost is around $7,000 per month and a 20 Gigabits per second service is about $500 per month.per Gigabit or $14,000 per month. The larger the quantity purchased on both Tier 1 and Tier 2 networks the lower the per unit price is.

Dark fiber on the other hand, is 1 or more strands of fiber that the Tier 3 provider can lease from the tier 1 or tier 2 provider that allows the tier 3 provider to pass as many Gigabits of data per second as they want at a fixed price. These leases of dark fiber can either be on a month to month basis or a long term lease of 10, 20 or more years.  The long term leases are typically paid for up from or prepaid for the whole duration of the lease.  By paying up front the tier 3 provider is guaranteed the use of that fiber for the duration of the lease and the lease cannot be canceled.  This is called an Indefeasible Right of Use.or IRU.  the MBI currently leases dark fiber on a month to month basis for $60/strand/mile/month.  IRUs are negotiated and don’t have a published price..

Each town’s network must get plugged into the internet at large (the Tier 1 networks) via some form of backhaul. The MB123 middle mile is one option. Towns operating on their own would typically  need to purchase 1 or 2 Gbps of “lit service” at a cost of $1200/mo/Gbps. This has two drawbacks: It’s expensive; and many towns are on “spurs” of the MB123 meaning that there is a single path to the town so a single line break could take down the whole town’s internet connection.

WiredWest is planning a regional backhaul solution that will reduce the cost of backhaul and provide redundancy for fault tolerant connectivity. Both bandwidth and backhaul are cheaper when purchased in bulk, so sharing backhaul connections reduces the cost. To share backhaul, we need to create “rings,” or redundant pathways that also provide resilience. To accomplish this, WiredWest will do the following:

  • Require member MLP’s to give WiredWest 50 year Indefeasible Right of Use (IRU’s) for several strands of fiber running from its main hut to borders of neighboring towns (backhaul paths). The number of strands will be determined, probably about 4 strands (2 pair). These will be used to connect to the neighboring member town’s fiber. The IRU’s will survive a member withdrawing from WiredWest in order to maintain stable connectivity for the neighboring towns.
  • Where clusters of adjacent towns cannot be directly connected, WiredWest will either pay for lit services or lease dark fiber to connect them. The MB123 leases dark fiber for $60/mi/mo. Lightower has long range dark fiber with access in Rowe, Shutesbury, and Springfield where major ISP’s including WG&E connect.
  • WiredWest will decide on a protocol, such as Ethernet Ring Protection Switching (ERPS) and purchase equipment necessary to connect the town’s hut  to the backhaul fiber.
  • Where necessary, WiredWest will purchase lit service to feed the system or supply service to towns with no neighbors that are too far to make connection to the regional backhaul practical. Initially, WiredWest may have to do this for all towns until a sufficient number of towns come online and WiredWest builds up sufficient cash flow to purchase the necessary equipment.

In so doing, WiredWest will provide backhaul to all of the member towns at much lower cost than they could purchase individually. The amount of savings depends on how many towns participate and how adjacent they are.

An additional advantage to the regional backhaul is that WiredWest will have thousands of connected potential customers rather than the hundreds that an individual town would have. This provides bargaining power for bulk rates on Network Operator (NO) and ISP services. It would be easy to change NO/ISP for all the towns at once if desirable or necessary.

Non-member towns may wish to connect to WiredWest’s backhaul ring. This is not as easy as drawing a line on a map. They would still have to give WiredWest IRU’s for fiber to WiredWest so that we can insure connectivity to neighboring towns. WiredWest and the town would have to negotiate who pays for and who owns the necessary equipment in the hut. And we would have to negotiate a monthly rate for their share of backhaul use. There may be cases where this is mutually advantageous, but it would most probably be better for both the town and WiredWest if the town joined WiredWest.

Edge Cases

Edge cases are situations where premises in a town cannot be connected to the town’s hut without going through a neighboring town.. They are discussed here because there can be some similar considerations as backhaul. There are three possible ways to handle these: 1) leasing dark fiber strands from the neighboring town;  2) having the premise(s) served by  the neighboring town; and 3) acquiring pole licenses in the neighboring town and stringing fiber cable through the neighboring town to reach the premises

If Town A leases fiber strands from Town B to connect a premise in Town A to its hut, the two towns will have to negotiate terms. MB123 leases dark fiber strands for $60/strand//mi/mo. However the towns may negotiate whatever prices or trades they wish. WiredWest only becomes involved with maintaining/repairing the fiber cables. If both towns are members of WiredWest, then there is no concern. If Town B is in WiredWest, but Town A is not, then there would have to be some negotiated terms for WiredWest to maintain the leased fiber since WiredWest would not be receiving subscription income from the premises in Town A. WiredWest would logically require some revenue to offset that maintenance liability.  If Town A is a member of WiredWest and Town B is not, then any maintenance charges that Town B may charge Town A for the leased fiber strands will be paid by WiredWest and maintenance will be the responsibility of Town B.

If Town A has premises it cannot reach and wishes to have Town B serve those premises, the two towns will have to negotiate terms. There are capital investment costs for both towns involved. Since Town A premises pay taxes in Town A, it makes sense, though perhaps not required, for Town A to pay for the fiber from the premises to the border where it can connect with Town B’s fiber, and therefore to Town B’s hut. The equipment  for the premises will have to match what is used by Town B, and it would be negotiable who pays for and owns the equipment. Since Town B is providing service to the premises in Town A, Town B will be entitled to the income derived from the premises served in Town A. If Town B is a WiredWest member, then WiredWest will cover insurance, maintenance and all operational costs to provide service to those premises in Town A that will be paying subscription fees to WiredWest. If Town B is not a WiredWest member, then WiredWest will not provide those costs.

The third possibility is for Town A to build its own fiber through Town B to reach premises in Town A that requires lines passing through Town B. If Town A is a member of WiredWest then WiredWest would be responsible for the fiber transiting Town B.  If Town A is not a member of WiredWest then WiredWest is not responsible for the maintenance of the fiber transiting Town B.