Arlington County is installing a fiber optic network for its own use, which includes fiber capacity designated for long-term expansion but not currently required by the County. The County intends to make this additional capacity available to the business community for high-speed, secure data transmission. The County anticipates that this “dark fiber” will support economic and community development, and the County’s Innovation Economy initiative.
- “Dark Fiber” refers to the underlying fiber optic cable used for telecommunications and networking. The fiber is essentially refined pieces of glass. The fiber is considered “dark” because, to transmit and receive signals, the user of the fiber must first attach appropriate electronic equipment.
- The speed and fidelity of data, video and voice traffic transmitted over the fiber are determined by the electronics that the end user places at either end of the fiber.
- Commercial providers in Arlington today offer “managed” or “lit fiber.” With “lit fiber,” the speed and fidelity of the data, video and voice traffic depend upon the available bandwidth allocated to the fiber, the number of users sharing the fiber, and other technical factors.
- With dedicated dark fiber, the user has exclusive access to the electronic “roadway.” The available speed is not affected by the presence of other users.
Advantages: Speed, Redundancy, and Security
- The end-user’s speed is solely dependent upon the networking equipment placed at either end of the fiber.
- Arlington County expects that end users will have access to transmission speeds at least 100 times greater than those that are currently offered by existing options for Internet access.
- Use of a solely dedicated fiber connection allows businesses reliable backup through redundancy.
- The core network, and the connections to this network, will be capable of being fully secure and of meeting the highest technical standards.
- The County will act as the facility manager and will be responsible for the management, maintenance, and physical security of the core fiber network, or “middle mile.”
Economic Development Benefit
- The primary purpose of making this fiber available to Arlington businesses is to promote economic development.
- Based on the County’s research, making this asset available is expected to help the County retain and attract businesses (large and small), federal agencies, educational institutions and other service providers.
- This asset will help vitalize the community today and in the future, and is part of County Board Member Jay Fisette’s plan for “laying the groundwork” for Arlington to become a hub for the innovation economy.
- Providing access to the County’s dark fiber will differentiate Arlington from other jurisdictions, because businesses in Arlington will have access to a communications infrastructure capable of providing secure, reliable, cost competitive, and easily accessible high-speed communications.
- Enhancing public safety: Radio towers can be connected terrestrially to allow for the highest quality of coverage during an emergency. Campuses can provide in-building public safety radio communication to all buildings from a single source.
- Enhancing building energy usage: Building management systems can be implemented to achieve efficient and economical utilization of heating, air conditioning, water utilization and electricity, as well as provide building security.
- Enhancing cell phone use: This could allow for provision of in-building wireless base stations that replace traditional cell phone towers. Signals received over the in-building base stations could then be backhauled to more powerful regional broadcast facilities for retransmission, thus enhancing cellular wireless communications.
- The core fiber network traverses the main business corridors (interconnecting Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square, Ballston, East Falls Church, University Corridor/Glebe Road, Columbia Pike, Pentagon City, Crystal City and Shirlington) of the County and does not provide access to the County’s residential neighborhoods.
- The County will grant 3-, 5-, and 10-year licenses for up to 48 strands of fiber.
- The license fees will be set to promote economic development.
- Given the focus on economic development, any entity wishing to utilize the fiber must have a terminus in Arlington and demonstrate that economic development will be realized.
- Access to the dark fiber network will allow businesses in Arlington to connect with regional and national hosting services, high-speed broadband providers, and links to regional, national and international locations outside of Arlington County.
- The County has already installed conduits to allow for installation of dark fiber, and will make available fiber in one conduit (for which the County has no current use) for the business community (including, Federal Government, higher-education institutions and the private sector.)
- The conduit will contain a significant amount of dark fiber.
- The County expects to complete the installation of the first phase dark fiber by Fall 2015.
- The County will manage the core fiber network for its needs.
- Licensees will be responsible for obtaining the “last mile” connection to the County-owned dark fiber.
“First Mile” Licensee
- Any entity wishing to obtain a license for dark fiber will be considered.
- The County will act as the facility manager of the core fiber network, or “middle mile.”
- Marketing the availability of the dark fiber, completing “last mile” connections between user facilities and the County’s network, and other business functions will be the responsibility of the licensee.