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What is Self-Provisioned Fiber?

Building your own fiber connections is costly and complex, but it can be an investment in a long-term scalable technology solution. In many cases, fiber can last for 20 years or more, and self-provisioned fiber can typically easily scale to handle whatever bandwidth requirements arise in the future. This is an ideal solution for rural districts where no providers have fiber or are uninterested in building service to the area.

Leased lit service and self-provisioned are based on different economic models (upfront construction costs vs. monthly ongoing service provider fees), which makes comparing your broadband options more complex than in the past.

While it may not work for every district, in the changing market, self-provisioned could be a more scalable and affordable option for a school district.

Benefits of Self-Provisioned Fiber

  • Bandwidth Scalability – A single strand of fiber is capable of transmitting at over 100 Gbps.
  • Flexibility – Districts that self-provision their own fiber network also provide their own electronics (called transceivers) to light the fiber, giving them direct operational control of their network, similar to the control districts have on leased dark fiber. Additionally, they are not bound by any restrictions or contract terms by the fiber owner.
  • Increasing Affordability – Beginning in E-rate funding year 2016, school districts’ fiber self-provisioned costs became eligible for E-rate funding, provided that it can be demonstrated to be the lowest cost solution. This E-rate rule was designed to expand the options for schools and libraries that receive few or no bids in response to their Form 470 submissions by allowing them to use E-rate dollars toward direct investment.

Challenges and Considerations with Self-Provisioned Fiber

  • Construction time can be lengthy and will require extensive planning and project management.
  • As with leased dark fiber, the district is responsible for supplying and operating the equipment connected to the fiber. Alternatively, they can outsource this to a 3rd party vendor.
  • Since the school district owns the fiber, they are responsible for all maintenance, locates, and repair. Even if the most of the economics of self-provisioned make it a viable solution, the ongoing support of the fiber should not be taken lightly.
    • Most districts do not have the expertise or resources internally to maintain and repair outside plant fiber, so this is usually outsourced to a 3rd party maintenance company (these services are eligible for E-rate funding). The district needs to bid and negotiate a strong maintenance contract, including scheduled (annual inspection and preventative maintenance) and unscheduled maintenance (cut and relocates).
    • As the owner of the fiber, the district is responsible for responding to 811 call before you dig requests if the fiber is built underground. While these locate services are should be part of a maintenance contract, some contracts may charge per instance. These costs can add up quick if there is a lot of underground construction happening in your area.
    • The district would be responsible for any relocates in the future due to work or expansion on any right of ways. For example, if the fiber is built along a road and it is decided to widen the road, then the school district would be responsible for the costs of relocating their fiber. These cost of these types of relocate projects can be substantial.