Second dark-fiber provider coming to Milwaukee

Even as Milwaukee-based Midwest Fiber Networks plots a course for a dark-fiber ring in Milwaukee and Franklin, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based firm is preparing to do the same.
But while Midwest Fiber Networks has an agreement with the City of Milwaukee to run its fiber through the city’s communications conduit, Citynet Telecommunications, Inc., routes its cable through city sewers (Citynet is not to be confused with the City of Milwaukee computer system of the same name). Specialized robots run the length of sewers, installing metal bands that press the cable tight to the sewer line wall. The system has an additional advantage in that sewer laterals provide a pre-existing line into client buildings, eliminating the need for trenching.
Dark-fiber providers proactively lay fiber-optic cables through an area and sell access, typically in an indefeasible right-of-use arrangement spanning 20 years. Access is granted to a specified number of channels and bandwidth.
Fiber can be laid between metropolitan areas or, as in this case, in a SONET ring within a metro area.
Deals between the city and both dark-fiber providers easily received the nod from the common council and the Utilities and Licensing Committee. The common council approved the Midwest Fiber Networks deal in March and the Citynet installation in April.

Different markets
According to City of Milwaukee chief information officer Randall Gschwind, the two firms differ in that, in other metro areas, Citynet tends to serve telecom carriers while Midwest Fiber Networks is planning to target enterprise-level users.
Midwest Fiber Networks, an offshoot of a Walker’s Point cable contractor, Cablecom, is negotiating with major users who could light their own fiber to run extranets over a ring that spans 20 miles of city-owned communications conduit. In total, the ring would extend about 35 miles, venturing from the downtown as far south as Franklin.
According to Citynet spokesperson Lee Allentuck, the two companies also differ in the typical length of their installations.
"It sounds like they are doing a metro fiber ring," Allentuck said. "Our networks are actually very small. The one we built in Albuquerque is only four miles but connects 19 buildings. This other dark-fiber provider might be an ideal provider for us – we could help them with that last mile to the plant."
Midwest Fiber Networks principal Donna Raffaelli agreed the two companies could be compatible.
"I think there are some opportunities for that," Raffaelli said. "A lot of it will depend on what the objective is for the different parties. They are certainly a good alternative for going the last mile as long as there are sewers available."
Citynet currently has similar contracts with 16 cities — 14 in the US and two in Europe, including Vienna, Austria, and Seville, Spain.

May 24, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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