Several service providers around the country offer low cost fiber to the premise services (FTTP), primarily to serve as cost-effective, high-speed connections to residential and small business customers. Examples of these are Verizon FiOS or AT&T Business Fiber. While these services are still delivered over fiber optic infrastructure, there are several differences that may impact their ability to fully scale to support the connectivity needs of your school district.
Based on a technology known as passive optical networks (PON), instead of using a dedicated connection for the last mile to each customer, a single fiber connection feeds the neighborhood and is split to feed each customer. Thus, customers in the same area share infrastructure and bandwidth. A customer in the same area generating a large amount of traffic could affect the speed of your connection. The speed advertised in your contract may not be the speed you will receive on an average basis. Additionally, there may be limitations to the maximum amount of bandwidth that providers offer over this type of connection – some providers offer up to 1Gbps, others only offer 500Mbps. For example, Verizon only recently announced 1Gbps FiOS connections in select metro markets.
It is important to think about the long term plans for your district. If you are currently using this type of fiber connection or are considering it due to it’s low cost, you should ask yourself:
For smaller districts, these solutions may be a viable way to bring fiber to your local schools. However, opportunities for funding of more robust fiber options currently exist within new E-rate rules. Now is the time to consider whether these services can truly scale to your needs, or whether to look into a more enterprise-grade fiber solution.