Open access networks (where a municipality or some other public entity builds a broadband network and allows multiple independent ISPs or network operators to utilize it for direct-to-consumer and/or business customers) hasn’t seen the same level of success here in the U.S. as it has in other countries. That being said, open access networks are in operation, and may even be seeing some momentum.
There are different open access models, including last mile and middle mile. Middle mile open access are middle mile fiber transport networks built by consortiums or other entities, and lease capacity other network operators. Examples of middle mile open access networks include MCNC in North Carolina and MassBroadband 123 in Massachusetts.
Last mile open access networks cater to individual ISPs, who use the open access network to deliver retail ISP services to end customers. While less prevalent, there are some examples including Chelan PUD in Washington and A2D in Georgia. New Jersey-based SiFi networks is also building an open access network in Fullerton, California. Muninetworks tracks the open access trend and offers a list of current open access networks and counts 29 active open access networks in the U.S.as well as 8 middle mile open access networks.
The concept behind open access networks makes good logical sense. Build one expensive infrastructure network, and allow multiple ISPs to compete, using the same infrastructure. This saves the expense of building multiple networks in a single community. Competitive factors, including the desire for some operators to build and control their network has led to limited adoption of this approach here in the U.S. Open access networks don’t have the best reputation as a result.
As the cost to build networks, particularly fiber networks are realized, some communities continue to explore open access networks. Among smaller communities, where good quality broadband may be lacking, the communities themselves are studying open access networks as a means to bring competitive broadband services and the economic development it drives to their respective communities.
It’s definitely a trend worth watching. ETI has a long history of partnering with community focused broadband providers. Our platform is uniquely designed to service these community broadband providers and can be tailored to meet the requirements of an open access network.
Getting broadband to every corner of America is going to take creative ideas. Open access networks is a part of the solution and ETI is ready to support those efforts as well.