Wiring the Sierras

Inyo County, the second largest county in California, is ready to jumpstart the process of delivering a true broad band infrastructure to business and residences within the Owens Valley.  The plan, called the 21st Century Obsidian Project, envisions delivering a fiber infrastructure to all residents of Inyo County and other surrounding areas along the Eastern Sierras and parts of Death Valley.

Owens Valley Eastern Sierras According to the project RFP, the project goal is “an operating, economically sustainable,
Open Access, Fiber-to-the-Premise, gigabit network serving the Owens Valley and select
neighboring communities. The project is driven by the expectation that Inyo County’s
economy will improve as a result of successfully attaining the goal.”

Many cities are finding ways to bypass the nonsense surrounding discussion on “Net Neutrality.”  Rather than worry about what Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, or other carriers and ISPs feuding over the rights and responsibilities of delivering Internet content to the premise,  many governments understand the need for high speed broadband as a critical economic, social, and academic tool, and are developing alternatives to traditional carriers.

Whether it is the Inyo County project, Burbank One (a product of Burbank Water and Power), Glendale Fiber Optic Solutions (Glendale Water and Power), Pasadena’s City Fiber Services, or Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) Fiber Optic Enterprise, the fiber utility is becoming available in spite of carrier reluctance to develop fiber infrastructure.

Much of the infrastructure is being built to support intelligent grids (power metering and control), and city schools or emergency services – with the awareness fiber optics are fiber optics, and the incremental cost of adding additional fiber cores to each distribution route is low.  So why not build it out for the citizens and businesses?

The important aspect of municipal or city infrastructure development is the acknowledgement this is a utility.  While some government agencies will provide “lit” services, in general the product is “dark” fiber, available for lease or use by commercial service providers.  Many city networks are interconnected (such as in Los Angeles County utility fiber from Glendale, Burbank, and LADWP), as well as having a presence at major network interconnection points.  This allows fiber networks to carry signal to locations such as One Wilshire’s meet-me-room, with additional access to major Internet Exchange Points and direct interconnections allowing further bypass and peering to other national and global service providers.

In the case of Inyo County, planners fully understand they do not have the expertise necessary to become a telecommunications carrier, and plan to outsource maintenance and some operations of the 21st century Obsidian Project to a third party commercial operator – of course within the guidelines established by the RFP.  The intent is to make it easy and cost effective for all businesses, public facilities, schools, and residences to take advantage and exploit broadband infrastructure.

However the fiber will be considered a utility, with no prejudice or limitations given to commercial service providers desiring to take advantage of the infrastructure and deliver services to the county.

We hope more communities will look at innovative visions such as being published by Inyo County, and consider investing in fiber optics as a utility, diluting the potential impact of carrier sanctions against both internet access, content, or applications (including cloud computing Software as a Service <SaaS> subscriptions.  e.g., MS 365, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Apps, etc.)..

Congratulations to Inyo County for your vision, and best of luck.

Hunter Newby on Communications in America – Are We Competitive?

This is Part 1 in a series highlighting Hunter Newby’s thoughts and visions of communications in America.  Part 1 will highlight Newby’s impressions of America’s competitiveness in the global telecom-enabled community.  Additional articles will touch on net neutrality, the “ying and yang” of the telecom industry, as well as  the dilemma of supporting telecom “end points.”

HunterNewbyMembers and guests of the Internet Society gathered at Sentry Center in New York on 14 June for the regional INET Conference.  The topic, “It’s your call, What kind of Internet do you want?” attracted Internet legends including Vint Cerf and Sir Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee, as well as a number of distinguished speakers and panelists representing a wide range of industry sectors.

Hunter Newby, Founder and CEO of Allied Fiber, joined the panel “Pushing Technology Boundaries” to discuss the future of Internet-enabled innovation.  The panel had robust discussions on many topics including net neutrality, infrastructure, telecom law, regulation, and the role of service providers.

Pacific-Tier Communications caught up with Newby on 22 June to learn more about his views on communications in America.

Are We Competitive?

Newby believes America lags behind other nations in developing the infrastructure needed to compete in a rapidly developing global community.  Much of the shortfall is related to physical telecommunications infrastructure needed to connect networks, people, content, and machines at the same level as other countries in Asia and Europe.

“The US lacks an appreciation for the need to understand physical (telecom) infrastructure” said Newby.  He went on to describe the lack of standard terms in the US, such as “Broadband Communications.” Newby continued “In some locations, such as North Carolina, broadband communications are considered anything over 128Kbps (Kilobits per second).”

Newby note there is considerable disinformation in the media related to the US communications infrastructure.  Although the US does have a national broadband plan, in reality the infrastructure is being built by companies with a priority to meet the needs of shareholders. Those priorities do not necessarily reflect the overall needs the American people.

While some companies have made great progress bringing high performance telecom and Internet access to individual cities and towns, Newby is quick to remind us that “we cannot solve telecom problems in a single  city or location, and (use that success) to declare victory as a country.”  Without having a national high performance broadband and network infrastructure, the US will find it difficult to continue attracting the best talent to our research labs and companies, eroding our competitiveness not only in communications, but also as a country and economy.

Newby returns to a recurring theme in his discussions on communications.  There are no connectivity “clouds” as commonly shown in presentations and documents related to the space between end points in the Internet (an end point being users, servers, applications, etc.).  The connectivity between end points happens on physical “patch panels,” telecom switches, and routers.  This happens in the street, at the data center, carrier hotel, central office, or exchange point.

Bringing it All Down to Layer 1 – Optical Fiber

Newby believes the basis of all discussions related to communications infrastructure starts at the right of way.  When access to a ground or aerial right of way (or easement) is secured, then install fiber optic cable.  Lots of fiber optic cable.  Long haul fiber, metro fiber, and transoceanic submarine fiber.  Fiber optic cable allows tremendous amounts of information to travel from end points to other end points, whether in a local area, or across wide geographies.

Long distance and submarine fiber optic cable are essential in providing the infrastructure needed to move massive amounts of information and data throughout the US and the world.  While there is still a large amount of communications provided via satellite and microwave, only fiber optic cable has the resources and capacity needed to move data supporting communications within the network or Internet-enabled community.

Newby makes a point that in the US, very few companies operate long haul fiber networks, and those companies control access to their communications infrastructure with tariffs based on location, distance, traffic volumes (bandwidth/ports), and types of traffic.  Much of the existing fiber optic infrastructure crossing the US is old, and cannot support emerging communication transmission rates and technologies, limiting choices and competitiveness to a handful of companies – none of which provide fiber as a utility or as a neutral tariffed product.

As the cost of long distance or long haul fiber is extremely high, most carriers do not want to carry the expense of building their own new fiber optic infrastructure, and prefer to lease capacity from other carriers.  However, the carriers owning long haul fiber do not want to lease or sell their capacity to potentially competitive communications carriers.

Most US communications carriers operating their own long haul fiber optic networks also provide additional value-added services to their markets.  This might include voice services, cable or IP television, virtual private networks, and Internet access.  Thus the carrier is reluctant to lease their capacity to other competitive or virtual carriers who may compete with them in individual or global  markets.

Thus a dilemma – how do we build the American fiber backbone infrastructure to a level needed to provide a competitive, high capacity national infrastructure without aggressive investment in new fiber routes?

Newby has responded to the dilemma and challenge with his company Allied Fiber, and advises “the only way to properly build the physical infrastructure required to support all of this (infrastructure need) is to have a unique model at the fiber layer similar to what Allied (Allied Fiber) has, but not solely look at fiber as the only source of revenue.”

For example, Newby advises revenue can be supplemented by offering interconnecting carriers and other network or content providers space in facilities adjacent to the backbone fiber traditionally used for only in-line-amplifiers (ILAs) and fiber optic signal regeneration.  The ILA facility itself “could be an additional source of recurring revenue,” while allowing the fiber provider to remain a neutral utility.

Or in short, Newby explains “we need to put a 60 Hudson or One Wilshire every 60 miles” to allow unrestricted interconnection between carriers, networks, and content providers at a location closest to the infrastructure supporting end points.

The Backbone

America can compete, and break the long distance dilemma.  Newby is certain this is possible, and has a plan to bring the US infrastructure up to his highest standards.  The idea is really pretty simple.

  1. Build a high capacity fiber optic backbone passing through all major markets within the US.
  2. Connect the backbone to local metro fiber networks (reference the Dark Fiber Community)
  3. Connect the backbone to wireless networks and towers (and provide the access location)
  4. Connect the backbone to all major physical interconnection points, carrier hotels, and Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)
  5. Make access to the backbone available to all as a neutral, infrastructure utility

Newby strongly advises “If you do not understand the root of the issue, you are not solving the real problems.”

And the root of the issue is to ensure everybody in America has unrestricted access to unrestricted communications resources.


Hunter Newby, a 15-year veteran of the telecom networking industry, is the Founder and CEO of Allied Fiber.

Read other articles in this series, including:

Mobile Operators Want their Ethernet over Fiber

A new telecom paradigm is on the verge of becoming reality. Not a disruptive technology, not the right brain flash of a new radical idea – rather it is a logical development of existing infrastructure using better operational execution. It is an acknowledgement of fiber optic infrastructure as an inherent requirement in the development of the 4th utility – broadband Internet, compute capacity, and storage as a basic right for all Americans.

The “utility” label has merit. Just as we need roads, water, and electricity to function in the modern world, we need communications. Much like the roads, electrical distribution, and water distribution systems crossing North America, the communications infrastructure follows a similar matrix of hubs, spokes, loops, and major exchange points interconnecting every square mile of the continent. The matrix includes a well-interconnected mixture of fiber optic cable, wireless, cable TV, copper telephone lines, and even satellite connections.

However, the arteries of this telecom circulatory system remain fiber optic cable. Fiber optic cable allows tremendous densities of communication, information, and data to travel across the street, or across the continent. Fiber goes north and south, east and west, connecting everything from wireless towers, satellite earth stations, collocation and hosting centers, communication carriers, Internet Service Providers, and end users to each other on a global scale.

Geography of the 4th Utility

Let’s take a deeper look at this circulatory system in geographic terms. When looking at a US map, latitude lines run horizontally, parallel to each other based on degrees north or south of the equator. The northern 40th parallel runs from Northern California to New Jersey, hitting parts of 12 states along its path. If we look at the US Interstate Highway system you will see some of the longer “arteries” stretch from the West Coast to the East Coast, such as interstate highway 10, running 2460 miles, hitting 8 states from California to Florida, and 35 major cities.

In addition, I-10 intersects with 45 other interstate highway junctions, and has several thousand entry and exit points serving both major cities and rural locations along the route. If you dig into the electrical grid you will find a similar mesh of interconnections, nodes, and relationships originating at power plants, and ending at the utility outlet in a bedroom or office.

The fiber optic system follows a similar model. The east-west and north-south routes follow the interstate highway system, rail system, and electrical grid – taking advantage of rights-of-way and interconnect nodes all along the route. The routes are generally shared by several different fiber optic providers and carriers, further extending their reach by collocating fiber at major carrier hotels along the coast, such as 60 Hudson in New York, the Westin Building in Seattle, NAP (network access point) of the Americas in Miami, and One Wilshire in Los Angeles, where they splice their fiber with major intercontinental submarine fiber optic systems.

Within North America further domestic interconnections are provided at each major city junction point throughout the country reinforcing the mesh of fiber networks in cities such as Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Dallas, Omaha, and Minneapolis.

The Local Value of a Global Fiber Optic Circulatory System

All this fiber is of little value if its utility does not reach every potential end user in America, or around the world. Much like the interstate highway system sporting several thousand access points and exits, the new fiber optic backbone will support fiber optic connections to every end user in the country, or push wireless broadband to every other addressable mobile and rural user. In the new world, the utility does not end at a wall outlet, but ends wherever the user is located. And that mobility is a local challenge.

Hunter Newby, CEO of Allied Fiber, an emerging fiber utility provider in the United States, advises that “It’s all about fiber…to the tower. For that component the long haul (fiber routes) is just how we get out there and back.” So while we may be able to analogize fiber routes with cities and interconnection points with the idea of a system starting at the driveway in a house to the East Los Angeles interchange and I-10, the wireless towers provide an undefined end point to the telecom grid that is unique.

The main difference discriminating the road system and electrical grid from the fiber grid are that in the telecom industry each route has many competing commercial providers. By definition, competition is not neutral. And if not neutral, it is not a utility, and cannot be expected to provide service in a location (or market) that will not be of financial advantage to the service provider – resulting in locations potentially stranded from the infrastructure.

Is this Really Different than the Existing Telecom Infrastructure?

Newby continues “The truth is that it’s the fiber that binds. Our route and its design is unique to today’s needs, unlike the design and needs of the cables from 10+ years ago. There are no neutral colos on those cables every 60 miles. There are also no FTTT (fiber to the tower) ducts (supporting) a separate fiber cable with handholes every 3000 ft on those systems.”

Following telecom deregulation in the United States, companies such as AT&T are no longer monopolies, with infrastructure development based on economic factors. If Carp, Minnesota (population ~100) does not offer sufficient economic incentive for AT&T to build broadband infrastructure, then it is unlikely to happen. Unless broadband is available through wireless networks, connecting to a broadband fiber backbone, and the rest of the world.

With companies such as Allied Fiber entering the market, access to the east-west, north-south routes will include a truly neutral alternative to the private road system of the existing telecom carriers. The long haul fiber routes will connect to regional neutral fiber routes, such as provided by companies such as Fiberlight in the eastern United States, and even more importantly provide both access to towers and interconnections at least every 60 miles (or more often) along the route.

That is because the long haul utility cable system will need to regenerate their signals at 60 miles points, offering a location for towers and regional fiber providers additional local access to supplement the carrier hotels and collocation facilities located at major junction or interconnection points. And financial incentives are available to companies through programs such as the Rural Development Telecommunications Program (RDTA) supporting the US government’s 4th utility Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP).

Hunter Newby brings evangelism to his vision.   

“Add to that the neutral colos allow the rural wireline and wireless carriers to colocate locally – in their county, or closeby by using the short haul duct to get to the closest AF colo – and in those locations they can buy high capacity transport and transit at wholesale rates from the large US and international carriers coming through. Right there! Wholesale! The rural carriers don’t even have to lease dark from us to get to the big cities/carrier hotels if they don’t want to or can’t afford to yet.

The ability to gain access to the power of the major US carrier hotels, but not have to actually get to them is the next frontier in the US.”

The 4th Utility is an American Entitlement
Newby concludes “The fiber laterals will all be built to us (the long haul neutral fiber providers). The tower companies won’t build them, but there are several transport providers that will. The mobile operators want their Ethernet over fiber.” Fiber that connects them to the content and people available on a global network-connected community. Broadband access that allows Americans to function in a global community.

Those wireless companies, whether mobile operators offering LTE/4G services, or WiFi providers offering a local competitive service, will pay the same tariff to connect to the neutral towers and fiber systems without prejudice. Just like an electrical utility doesn’t care if the outlet is supporting a private individual’s television set, a small storefront business’s display case, or an aircraft assembly plant, the only discriminating issue is in volume and required capacity.

A utility. Broadband access is now an expected utility – not a value-added service, available to all, but rather as an entitlement to living in America.

Giving Ourselves a Broadband Facelift for the 2010 Matrix

Of all the memories the telecom community has of the 80s and 90s, one of the most vivid is the sight of long haul fiber optic cable systems being buried throughout the United States. A product of deregulation, competition, and the birth of the Internet, American telecom companies saw a desperate need for greatly increasing transmission capacity, and responded with investments in long haul fiber, metro fiber, and digital switching needed to meet all visions of what we knew in those wonderful days of innovation.

Globally, broadband Internet, 3G + wireless, and the convergence of everything from entertainment to telephony into digital formats is driving not only Internet technologies, but also physical telecom transmission systems to the threshold of existing capacity. This explosive growth in information and communications technologies creates an interesting dilemma for telecom companies.

Do you spend your efforts finding ways to control the use of existing capacity? Or do we acknowledge the fact our network-enabled global community is not likely to get any smaller, and the world now needs our telecom thought leadership to both greatly expand what we already have, while aggressively investing in developing transmission technology that will enable, not restrict, growth in all things digital.

Not a US-Only Challenge

When a child in South Africa, Hanoi, or Denpasar has equal access to Hulu TV, Skype video chats, and eLearning systems from either a fixed workstation or mobile phone, it can be argued technology is serving the purpose of enabling and providing a new generation with the intellectual tools they need to flatten the geographic and political barriers we have lived with since the beginning of time.

All great, benevolent thoughts. Our children may need the tools to correct the problems we’ve created through irresponsible use of fossil fuels, exploitation of natural resources, human transmitted disease, war, and creation of toxic “stuff” that continues to restrict our planet’s ability to create an acceptable quality of life for all.

Face it, educated people in general do not make as many BIG mistakes as those who blindly follow others due to ignorance or lack of exposure to a wide variety of knowledge. Internet and telecom-enabled technologies may facilitate some people who thrive on physical or ideological control, however that is also diluted as the percentages bring their own knowledge of fact, and exposure to a liberal dosage or prism of different perspectives.

Or in other words, we can hope primary school students from different countries and cultures who meet each other through chatting or cooperative educational projects will be more likely to collaborate on useful endeavors in later life than those who are only exposed to a narrow view of society, culture, ideologies, and leadership.

Getting to the Vision

All this is great. An altruistic, warm, and fuzzy view of the future. Getting our vision to reality requires a tremendous amount of work. The current caretakers of industry and leadership do not have all the intellectual tools needed to keep up with a developing generation of children who were birthed in the Internet Age.

However we (the current caretakers) are pretty good at building things. Among those things are fiber optic transmission systems spanning oceans, continents, cities, and now even homes. We are good at building wireless transmission towers, and are still pretty good at building devices that can connect all this fiber, tower, and wireless infrastructure together.

And the younger generation is beginning to envision ways to exploit the transmission “matrix” that is beyond the comprehension of our current caretaker generation.

“The world is becoming one, big, ubiquitous, homogeneous system because of “the network” and the network exists and needs to exist because it exists (in other places) already. This is the justification to build. It is a self-fulfilling chain reaction.” (Hunter Newby, CEO Allied Fiber)

The Republicans in the US like to scream the need for Americans to “Drill Baby Drill,” exploiting domestic sources of fossil fuels, reducing our dependence on foreign sources for energy. In the telecom industry we are beginning to feel the need to “Dig Baby Dig.”

We need to increase our ability to continue delivering the network transmission capacity required to give our next generation the tools needed to really make a “Matrix-enabled” future, rather than spend our efforts scrambling, as in the energy analogy, to control or reduce our dependence on existing sources of telecom capacity.

How it is Going to Happen

In the US, for the past 30 years deregulation has allowed the telecom industry to build their infrastructure without any oversight other than what local or state governments impose for licensing and access to rights of way. Most debates have surrounded topics such as net neutrality, control over markets, or conduct of both content and users connecting to the Internet.

The US National Science Foundation inadvertently created the current, sometimes restrictive environment within the US Internet community by passing control of the NSFNet backbone to a select few commercial providers (AT&T, MCI, and Sprint). This award increased incentives for carriers to control their part of the US Internet space, and reduce incentives to aggressively build out physical capacity needed to meet the exponentially increasing demands for bandwidth and capacity.

It did not greatly meet infrastructure requirements needed to support the convergence of everything that can, does, should, and will travel over Internet Protocol (IP) networks over the next 25 or 30 years. While there are some positive developments in the local loop (FiOS, LTE, WiMAX, Uverse, etc), Newby cautions in the US there is a dearth of long haul and metro capacity needed to string all the local initiatives together.

The answer is to dig. Dig more conduits around the United States and Canada, drop the highest existing capacity fiber cabling within the conduits, connect wireless towers supporting LTE/4G+ to the high capacity backbone, connect buildings and homes, and develop new even higher capacity transmission technologies to parallel or exceed similar models of growth such as Moore’s Law and Metcalf’s Law.

But to give us the space needed to develop those technologies, for now, dig baby dig. Give fiber optic long haul, metro, and local digs the same tolerance we give to filling potholes and expanding lanes on a freeway system – while in the background we hope our leadership designs high speed rail, better road construction materials, and better ways to move from point “A” to point “B.”

Consider broadband, hyper-band, and uber-band development the true 4th Utility justifying extreme social priority, without which we will suffer the same fate as losing electricity, water, and roads. As with roads, everything we do going into the future will ride the broadband “matrix,” and without enough available lanes we will reduce ourselves to a frustrating gridlock of intellectual, business, and social development.

Dig baby dig…

NOTE: I was first introduced to the concept of the “Matrix” in the early 1990s, when a friend of mine suggested I read a book by John S. Quarterman entitled “The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide.” 20 years after, and it is still the most enlightening view of the Internet, what the internet cloud and should be, as well as look into the future as anything I have ever read on the topic. It takes William Gibson, Neal Stephensen, and translates their fiction into a reality which continues to become part of our day to day lives. Or maybe it gave both authors additional ideas needed for them to develop fiction…

Wiring Los Angeles Part 3 – WilCon Manages Infrastructure Risks

This is part three is a series of interviews with Eric Bender, president of Wilshire Connection. Wilshire Connection, or WilCon, is the largest independent local network and neutral fiber infrastructure provider in downtown Los Angeles. In this segment Eric discusses how WilCon managed risk to their network during the initial construction process, the continuing management of critical telecommunications infrastructure, and the role WilCon could play in the event of a major incident impacting the telecom industry in Los Angeles.

Pacific Tier: (on the topic of utility gas and electricity) What risk is there to the infrastructure in downtown LA of an explosion from either electricity or gas, and what would that do to your conduits if it occurred?

Eric Bender: Interesting question… I haven’t really thought much about that, it would, depending on where, you never want to see that. Fortunately with power, Street Utility Tagging in Downtown Los Angelesthe lines typically won’t explode, it is the transformers, which mostly are in the buildings.

The way LADWP (Los Angeles Dept of Water and Power) sets up they bring the high voltage lines into the building, so if the transformer blows up it will be in the building. The transformer is typically not out in the street – but they do have some vaults out in the street, and they have had some explosions, but they have been contained within the vault. We don’t run through any of their vaults so from that perspective we’re OK.

Somebody who is digging and hits a gas line… that’s a different story.

I can say in the roughly 12 years that we’ve had conduit in the ground, and since we were one of the first to dig, I can say that we are lower in the ground, and more protected in many respects, and more of a straight line in routes we’re going without having to jog around any other existing infrastructure that came later.

But we’ve never had one of our conduits damaged or cut. Or interfered with…

The difference between how our conduits or duct banks are typically done vs. many other carriers is that we put in massive amounts of conduit. We use (typically) four inch PVC conduit, and I don’t think we have a single one (trench) which has less than six or eight four inch conduits. Most of them have multiples of that, for example going on Wilshire Blvd between Grand and Figueroa we have an average of conduit in that whole duct bank is probably close to sixty four inch conduits.

Because fifty of them go into One Wilshire, although they kind of peel off in WilCon Conduit Duct Bank in Los Angelesdifferent directions from there, we’ve also got a main ’48 and they lateral off down into other streets into buildings, so there’s some doubling going on.

But in some areas we have up to sixty four inch conduits so that’s the size of a desk, or bigger, and that duct bank is encased in a concrete slurry around it, surrounded by a couple addition feet of dirt and asphalt on top.

So if anybody digging is going to hit (the duct bank) typically there is warning tape on top of the conduit, concrete, or in the concrete they are going to pull it up. They are going to hit (the tape) or something before they hit the conduit. So unless it is some young, uncontrollable (person) with the backhoe who is on a rampage – no matter what you do you can’t control that.

NOTE: Whenever a company opens a street for utility construction or maintenance you will normally have construction observers and safety observers from not only the company opening the street, but also each company with conduit or utility infrastructure in the immediate area of digging.

But some of the other carriers that put in one or two conduits, they are the ones at risk, like for example an MCI, Verizon, or a QWEST in some cases they typically put in just the two conduits… And you could rip through that even if its encased in concrete before you realize what you are doing.

The conduits are just this big, versus this big (Eric shows a note book size to represent two conduits vs. his desktop to represent WilCon’s conduits).

Pacific Tier: Do you consider yourself the only truly neutral facilities-based carrier in downtown LA?

Eric Bender: I think others consider themselves neutral, but they have other motives as well. I don’t care if I sell dark fiber or lit transport. We can do either, and it doesn’t matter to me which one they want. We have so much fiber, and the infrastructure to continue pulling more and more fiber that I’m never worried about running out of capacity for dark fiber.

A Level 3, or a QWEST, or an XO, they run a network, and they’re obviously not neutral. DWP (LADWP), they’re somewhat neutral because they don’t seem to care whether you take fiber or lit services. I don’t know what they do with lit services or on the network side of things – honestly. We’ve leased from them (LADWP) dark fiber to get access to some off-net buildings, and they’re very easy to work with. They are very rigid, and have no flexibility (LADWP is a public utility), but they’re easy to work with.

We’re probably, as a straight, neutral, not really care who you connect with, we may not be the only one (neutral fiber network), but one of the only ones that would be neutral.

Pacific Tier: One Wilshire is traditionally a center of communications in Los Angeles. Some people think it is a high risk location because there is so much on the 4th floor and other parts of the building. Some people think that it is meaningless – that it doesn’t have that much value. Do you think the 4th floor of One Wilshire today is a critical piece of infrastructure, or do you think it is something that is just there, that could be bypassed when and if ever needed?

Eric Bender: I think at this point it would still be considered a critical facility. A lot of carriers and other companies have facilities or locations elsewhere, but because of the way they’ve built their networks from the beginning, One Wilshire has always been the central point for them.

They may not have grown and expanded there, or they may have moved things off to other locations, such as 600 W. 7th, 818 (W. 7th ), or even outside of LA, and use a company like us, or some other carrier to make that interconnection or virtual connection between their two facilities. One Wilshire tends to have been their primary facility.

I think that over the years that’s more applicable to legacy carriers, the bigger carriers, the ones that have been around for a long time.

I think the Internet type of carrier that’s either VoIP or an Internet company, content CDNs (content delivery networks), and those – One Wilshire’s not as important to them at all because in my limited technical knowledge it is easier to reroute that traffic to other servers – they have more mirror facilities than a switch would have on the telecom side of things.

Pacific Tier: Is there a business continuity plan, or disaster plan, in the event One Wilshire or another facility like 60 Hudson (New York), or the NAP of the Americas (Miami) anybody has thought about or put on the shelf in the event one of those critical facilities has a catastrophic failure?

Eric Bender: I am not aware of any common, for the greater good, where all the carriers have participated in developing that, or working out some kind of contingency plan. That’s actually a really good question.

You’d think that after 9/11 where the infrastructure was so significantly damaged that in various other markets such as LA, Chicago, that there would be some kind of a group of organizational effort to have dealt with that. I am not aware of one. They may have one, but I am not aware of it, and they never invited me to participate.

Pacific Tier: Is WilCon positioned, in the case of a worst case scenario in Los Angeles, to assist the community and assist the industry in recovering to an alternate facility if that occurred?

Eric Bender: Sure, I mean, our infrastructure that we built, and that we control and own, is all primarily downtown LA, so… in a worst case One Wilshire becomes untenable, well a lot of our fiber doesn’t all home run into One Wilshire, but a lot of it does go in and turn around, coming back out again.

There would be disruption, but it could be brought out and bypassed. We have diverse paths into most buildings that we connect so we can certainly do it.

Not in LA, but when in the Mediterranean last year when they had the three or four cuts, (several of) our customers were impacted. I sent them an email and said I doubt there is anything we can do here , but if there is anything you need that we can help you with, let me know and we can work with you.

And actually two of the customers said “yeah we need to reroute some connections to put it on a different side of their ring (in the Med and Pacific) that we could do in about five hours with a couple pairs of fiber for them, and they were able to reroute their traffic, or some of their traffic, and lessen the impact of those (submarine fiber) cuts.

Pacific Tier: So WilCon would consider yourselves a very flexible, agile part of a recovery plan, and would not be rigid in your provisioning process, and that you would work with the community to recover from a disaster?

Eric Bender: I agree with that!

=====

This ends the third segment of this series. In the next part, Eric will discuss more of the future of Wilshire Connection, including his visions for expanding WilCon into new markets.

The entire interview is available online.

Previous entries in this series include:

  • Part 1 – Wiring Los Angeles, an Interview with Eric Bender, President of Wilshire Connection
  • Part 2 – Wiring Los Angeles Part 3 – WilCon Manages Infrastructure Risks
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