When deciding how to connect your schools to fiber, there are a number of options to consider. Districts can procure a fully managed lit fiber service from a provider or they can procure different types dark fiber to create their own transport services.
Leased Lit Fiber
is a fiber based broadband service where the service provider owns, activates, and manages the network while the school district pays a recurring fee to have data transported over it. Currently, leased lit fiber is the most common way that school districts and businesses receive transport and Internet access. There are many common network services that fall under the term of leased lit fiber such as Metro Ethernet, MPLS, or Ethernet Private Line (EPL).
Leased Dark Fiber
is a service where a customer leases a specific number of fiber strands on a provider owned and maintained fiber network. The customer is responsible for adding the electronics at both ends to make the fiber a functional connection. This service could be a viable alternative to leased lit fiber services, as it provides cost and scalability advantages.
refers to a district-owned broadband network. A school pays a vendor to construct a fiber network that they own, maintain, and operate. This can be a good solution for schools in areas where service providers have little economic incentive to build out fiber-optic networks and have been unable to find affordable high-speed broadband.
Before deciding on a connectivity solution, it is beneficial to consider and compare the relative cost of various options. Self-provisioning vs. a leased fiber service is a classic “own vs. rent” comparison where the economics of the options will be presented to you very differently, and you will need to model the two options in order to compare them equally.
Apart from the comparison of costs, it is also critical to consider other factors such as timing, resource demands, skill requirements, and fiber network quality factors (latency, link loss, budgets, plant design, etc) for all the services you are interested in. The ability to meet the operational requirements of each type of service varies among school districts. Every school and district should consider the different options based on their own unique situation and get a number of competitive bids including pricing and project timelines before making their decision.