Infrastructure Economics | Episode 55 of the Connect This! Show

In this episode they talk about the economics of broadband deployment, from the effect of taxes, to rural fixed wireless, to whether fiber is ever “too expensive” to build.

Conduit, Fiber Optics & The Last Mile | Building A Fiber-To-The-Home Network

This video breaks down conduit, the central office, and the last mile to give you a birds-eye-view of a typical fiber optic network. This video is suggested for people who need a quick overview of what the last-mile is, and what it takes to build a subterranean fiber optic network.

Fiber Optic Project 101

Why Fiber Optic Networks are Preferred

•Virtually unlimited speed, limited only by the equipment you place on the ends of the fiber

•Can carry signals for long distances

–Undersea fiber cables go all the way across the oceans (1000s of miles)

–Will need to re-generate the signal every 60 miles or so

Some Fiber Optic Terminology

•Long haul networks

–These are networks operated by carriers/telecom providers that carry information over long distances

•Middle Mile networks

–This is the connection from a carrier facilities to a town or a last mile network

–For rural areas, this will connect a town or areas last mile network to a larger metropolitan area

•Last Mile networks

–Connection to the end user, either via wireless, copper, or fiber

Fiber Optic Technology

•There are two basic types of fiber optic cabling

Multi mode: used to be popular for campus or building-wide networks due to lower cost for equipment to “light” it

Single mode: always used in telecom/ISP networks due to much longer distances and faster speeds

•The real difference is the size of the glass that carries light

•You will always want single mode fiber due to the distance and speeds it supports

Close up of a Fiber Cable

•The core carries the light and varies in size

•The cladding acts as a mirror and keeps the light into the core and is almost always 125 microns

•The coating protects and identifies the fiber optic cable strand

Multi versus Single Mode

•Multimode fiber has much larger core to carry the light

-Can use LED or cheap laser to generate light

-Suitable for short distances less than 400 m, can use cheap laser or LED to generate light.

-Multiple paths- has a core large enough that light bounces and takes multiple paths through the glass

•Singlemode fiber has much smaller core

-Must use laser to generate light

- Better for long haul, has a thinner core 8-10 microns wide.

Multi versus Single Mode (continued)

•Equipment to “Light” Fiber

•A connection between equipment often requires two fibers

Equipment to “Light” Fiber

–One fiber is used to transmit in one direction, the other fiber in the opposite

•Common equipment for local area networks work like this

Optical Interfaces

•We refer to the module that is placed in a switch or router to attach to fiber optic cable as an optical interfaces

•Most common types used in local area networks are SFP, SFP+ and QSFP

A Closer Look at SFP/SFP+ and QSFP

Passive Optical Networks

•If you do Fiber to the Home (FTTH)

Passive Optical Network Equipment

•Fiber Optic Construction - Aerial

Fiber Optic Construction - Aerial

•Aerial construction is cheaper, even more so if there existing pole lines that have capacity to attach fiber

–Quicker to complete

–Less chance of unexpected barriers (bedrock, underground obstructions, inadvertent damage to existing underground utilities)

–Easier repairs

•Aerial construction is more susceptible to damage that could be costly

•Aerial Fiber Construction

As shown above a slack loop can be used cut fiber open and build a drop to customer and pull it into a splice truck to splice it.

Fiber Optic Construction - Underground

•Underground construction is more expensive than aerial

•Underground construction is more resilient to many hazards, including wildfire, weather (wind/ice), and vandalism

•Underground Fiber Construction

Slack Loops

-Needed to cut fiber open and build a drop to a building/customer

-Needed to be able to pull it into a splice truck to splice it

-Aerial fiber- for middle mile, you have splice cases. You need to build in slack into the splice case.

-Put 10% of fiber coiled up as slack loops in areas where you might have direction changes for example where there’s a railroad crossing/river etc, always have at least one on one side of that, sometimes both sides.

-Put in ground cases for underground

-1000-1500 ft between handholds or every 200m. 

Fiber Optic Splicing

•Fiber optic cable is spliced one optical fiber at a time

•Recommended technique is to fusion splice fiber

–Fusion splicing melts two ends of bare optical fibers together using an electric arc

–This is the way to splice a fiber cable going to a home on to the cable in the street

–It is also how to terminate fiber optic cables into fiber optic patch panels

•Splicing is quite simple, but you need trained technicians and specialized tooling to keep your system in operating condition

Fusion Splicing Fiber

Fiber Optic Splice Enclosures

Fiber Optic Splice Trays

Mixed Fiber and Wireless Networks

•A common use of fiber is to serve wireless towers

•Tribal broadband role can be to install middle mile fiber from carrier facilities to wireless tower locations and

–Either provision your own 4G LTE services using the 2.5Ghz EBS spectrum you obtained in 2020 or

–Entice a mobile provider to use your fiber and tower to provision commercial services

Fiber Optic Systems Maintenance

•Fiber does not require routine maintenance

•Repair fiber damage

–Need bucket trucks, backhoes, fusion splicers, trained technicians, repair materials, and dispatch center to coordinate efforts

•Must respond to one-call locate service for locates

•Will have requests to move both aerial and underground fiber due to construction or other activities

•Electronic equipment operating a network on your fiber system will require routine updates, upgrades, and maintenance

Fiber Optic Systems Outages

Fiber Optic System Locates

-Document and map all assets!!!!

-Call 811 to get a locate done when you’re digging

-As a utility owner you have to respond to “locates”- you register your underground utilities. DOCUMENT: If you miss (due to imprecision), then you will have to pay to fix the problem.

-Use conduit with metal in it with a tone-based metal detector

-Use a warning “locate” tape with metallic element that says “warning” so the backhoe hits it first and they pull up the tape not your fiber.


•Fiber optic networks are the best alternative to providing high speed broadband services

•You will need experienced designers and contractors

•You will need trained technicians and sophisticated tooling

More Resources

–The Fiber Optic Association (

Fiber Optic Testing Tools

•The visual fault locator is required and they are cheap.  It is tone and trace for fiber.

•The light source and power meter aren’t required, but are useful as it is used to measure the optical loss through fiber cabling.

•Fusion Splicer

•Fusion splicer:

–Used to join (splice) fiber optic cables

•To terminate single mode fiber

•Installing new fiber runs

•To repair fiber cable cuts

•Picture shows example of a Fujikura 90S state of the art splicer

•Not required unless you are installing your own fiber cabling

Additional Fiber Testing Tools

•These are used to take a “picture” of a run of optical fiber to find places where the fiber has been partially damaged or where you have dirty connectors

•Only required if you install your own fiber cable

Fiber splicing

Fiber Optic Splicing

•Fiber optic cable is spliced one optical fiber at a time

•Recommended technique is to fusion splice fiber

–Fusion splicing melts two ends of bare optical fibers together using an electric arc

–This is the way to splice a fiber cable going to a home on to the cable in the street

–It is also how to terminate fiber optic cables into fiber optic patch panels

•Splicing is quite simple, but you need trained technicians and specialized tooling to keep your system in operating condition

Fusion Splicing Fiber

Fiber Optic Splice Enclosures

Fiber Optic Splice Trays

Fiber Optic Association Reference Guide

This is the FOA's Guide To Fiber Optics & Premises Cabling. It includes almost a thousand pages of materials created by the FOA covering the basics to advanced topics on fiber optics and premises cabling.The goal of this website is educating students, users, designers, installers or anyone interested in the subject of fiber and cabling for communications systems.

A complete guide to fiber optic internet

This resources form OTELCO provides an overview of fiber optics, DSL, cable, and fixed wireless networks. It also provides information on the benefits of broadband, construction methods, and finance and regulatory considerations.

2022 Tribal Broadband Bootcamp (Session 4 - Fiber)

This session take an in-depth look at fiber networks.

Supporting resource:

Configuring Fiber

For information on Configuring IP over Fiber Channel, click here.

For Free Online Self-Study Courses from the  Fiber Optic Association click here.


Broadband technology relates to a high-speed, higher bandwidth connection to the internet used to transmit data, voice, and video across long distances.

The greater bandwidth of a broadband connection, the more data can be transmitted at higher speeds.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in 2015 that, to be considered broadband internet, the service must offer download and upload speeds of at least 25 and 3 megabits per second. The six main types of broadband technologies are digital subscriber line (DSL), cable modem, fiber, wireless, satellite, and broadband over power lines (BPL).

Digital subscriber line (DSL)

DSL technology uses copper telephone lines to deliver a high-bandwidth connection to the Internet, with typical data transmission speeds ranging from 512 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps (millions of bits per second). DSL service requires a certain proximity to the DSL provider's central office. There are two main types of DSL technologies: asymmetrical digital subscriber line (ADSL) and symmetrical digital subscriber line (SDSL). ADSL is asymmetrical because its users receive a lot of data but do not send a lot of data. SDSL is primarily used by businesses that require fast speeds for both sending and receiving large amounts of data. 

Cable Modem

Cable modems use the coaxial cables used by cable companies to send pictures and sound to your television and allow for data transmission. Cable modems are external devices that provide speeds of 1.5 Mbps or more. Speeds vary depending on the option selected from your cable provider, the cable modem, and internet traffic.


Fiber broadband uses fiber optic technology that converts electrical signals to light. These electrical signals carry the data and are sent through transparent glass fibers. Fiber transmits data significantly faster than DSL and cable modems, usually by tens or hundreds of Mbps. Fiber connections can also deliver voice and video and can be an alternative to traditional cable connections.


Wireless broadband is either mobile or fixed, it transmits data using radio signals from ISP's facility to the customer's location. Wireless can provide long-range transmissions to areas that are remote and do not have access to DSL, cable, or fiber. The speed of wireless is similar to DSL and cable.


Satellite broadband is a form of wireless broadband that uses satellites in the earth's orbit to transmit data. Satellite provide broadband connectivity to remote areas. Satellite broadband speeds vary depending on many factors, but are generally 500 Kbps for downloads and 80 Kbps for uploads.

Broadband Over Powerlines (BPL)

BPL transmits data over existing power lines, it can be set up using a building's existing electrical system. Bpl supplies speeds similar to DSL and cable. BPL is a relatively new technology and is only available in select areas. However, using existing power lines reduces the need to build new costly infrastructure.

For more information, click here.

Fiber Ecosystem

“The ecosystem for Tribal broadband development includes more than 20 federal agencies; hundreds of local and national internet service providers; State, local, and Tribal governments; libraries and cultural centers; banks; community financial development institutions; advocacy groups; and many others. The lack of coordination and communication among these disparate entities, or even solely within the Federal Government, has been cited as a critical barrier to success for Tribal broadband projects. We aim to build on the success of the ABI in coordinating efforts to drive rural broadband development by bringing a specific focus on Tribal needs. Achieving this vision will require a whole-of-government response, strategically bringing several federal agencies together with Tribal, State, and local governments, and the private sector. Within the Federal Government, the primary agencies involved in broadband deployment and adoption activities for tribes include: Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Commerce (USDOC), Department of Education (ED), Department of the Interior (DOI), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).” ( National Tribal Broadband Strategy Developed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Affairs 2020)

For more information, you can find the National Broadband Strategy developed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Affairs here.

For information on the fiber ecosystem and the new infrastructure bill, click here.