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Google Network Networking The Internet IT

Google Is Lighting Up Dark Fiber All Over the Country (vice.com) 124

sarahnaomi writes: For years, San Francisco has had a robust fiber optic infrastructure laying dormant underneath its streets. Google announced Wednesday that it's going to start lighting some of those cables up. Welcome to the future of broadband in major cities. Most people don't know that many cities throughout the United States are already wired with "dark fiber": infrastructure that, for a variety of reasons, is never used to provide gigabit connections to actual residents. This fiber is often laid by companies you rarely hear about, like Zayo and Level 3, which lay fiber infrastructure in hopes the city, a provider like Google, or a corporate customer (like an office building) will eventually make use of it.
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Google Is Lighting Up Dark Fiber All Over the Country

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 25, 2016 @02:29PM (#51584689)

    Google long ago bought up much of this fiber and has been sitting on it. Patiently waiting for ATT,Comcast, Verizon to all back themselves into a corner.

    • So if your city wants Google Fiber, all your taxpayers have to do is pay for all the up-front expense and liabilities of actually laying the fiber lines. Then Google will be more than happy to come in with no substantial investment and make a bunch of money off of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 25, 2016 @02:30PM (#51584695)

    Yes, Level3 laid a lot of extra fiber (and conduits) throughout major metro areas.

    The fiber itself was not very expensive (they use horizontal boring tools that have become the standard for under-street improvements), the real cost is in the gear needed to light and amplify signals on the fiber. My most recent former employer set up a 10GbS link between primary and colo sites for minimal cost by leveraging the Level3 fiber.

    If a well-funded organization like Google (Level3 has been cash constrained since the telecom crash) can lease and light these fibers it will be (yet) another major disruption to the metro network players, and frankly, it is about damned time

    • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @02:33PM (#51584731) Homepage

      Yes, Level3 laid a lot of extra fiber (and conduits) throughout major metro areas.

      The fiber itself was not very expensive (they use horizontal boring tools that have become the standard for under-street improvements), the real cost is in the gear needed to light and amplify signals on the fiber. My most recent former employer set up a 10GbS link between primary and colo sites for minimal cost by leveraging the Level3 fiber.

      If a well-funded organization like Google (Level3 has been cash constrained since the telecom crash) can lease and light these fibers it will be (yet) another major disruption to the metro network players, and frankly, it is about damned time

      I can't find it by googling (amusing that) but I heard that Google over a decade ago snapped up a bunch of dark fiber after the .com bust. I had wondered what they were intending to do with that...

      Here's hoping they light that shit up like a christmas tree :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There was a big fire-sale going on since 2001
        In some cases Level3 (while they still could) made extended bond offerings so that they could pick up companies like Broadwing, in other case companies like Cogent bought up failed fiber providers.
        For the most part Level3 sought companies that had technology similar to their own (e.g.the head of Broadwing used to work for Level3) while Cogent bought whatever they could get cheapest and kept ti cobbled together to force prices down and (they hoped) to strangle Lev

      • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <`delirium-slashdot' `at' `hackish.org'> on Thursday February 25, 2016 @04:25PM (#51585837)

        Not sure if it's the story you were thinking of, but there was a little bit of discussion in the tech press/blogs in 2005 in response to someone noticing [cnet.com] that Google had put out a job posting for a "strategic negotiator" with experience in "identification, selection, and negotiation of dark fiber contracts both in metropolitan areas and over long distances as part of development of a global backbone network". That led to a lot of speculation over what precisely Google was planning to do.

      • My recollection was LVLT leased out the fiber at bargain basement prices; they still owned everything through at least 2004, and they still have a huge infrastructure.

        I know Google and Netflix were "buying" a lot of fiber back in the CDN war phase.

        However, generally speaking this fiber doesn't do anything to get neighborhoods and buildings lit. It is backbones that join HUBs and POPs, often along railroad lines. It is extended down some corridors for metro fiber, but that is much more limited.

        Happy my off

    • by elistan ( 578864 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @04:15PM (#51585719)
      My city has recently begun rolling out 1gbps fiber to all residents. The city has a 10gbps pipe to the outside world. My ONT's IP address is a L3 address, so I assume the city is using fiber and perhaps even equipment belonging to L3. I think a lot of the fiber being used is from the '90s. (Except the new runs to everybody's house, of course.)
    • I am aware of older SM fiber laid around Y2K that is not capable of quality operation at gigabit speeds.

    • by sr180 ( 700526 )

      the real cost is in the gear needed to light and amplify signals on the fiber

      Not really. 10G SFP+ transceivers giving 10km distance are around US$30. (40km for $150). The costs for 10G really have come down. (Unless you look at HP and cisco list prices.)

    • That's backwards. The biggest cost is laying the fibre. It's orders of magnitude more expensive than directional drilling, especially in this lawsuit happy day of liability. A lot of money spent on directional drilling goes into the up front planning to ensure you don't hit anything.

  • by DRichardHipp ( 995880 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @02:37PM (#51584769)
    Here in Charlotte, there are crews all over trenching in new fiber conduit - both for Google and for AT&T. I found it interesting that the AT&T crews that I've seen are putting in a single 1-inch conduit, whereas the Google crews are putting in multiple (sometimes as many as five) 2-inch conduits. Maybe Google is just trying to catch up. Or maybe they have bigger plans.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Here in Charlotte, there are crews all over trenching in new fiber conduit - both for Google and for AT&T. I found it interesting that the AT&T crews that I've seen are putting in a single 1-inch conduit, whereas the Google crews are putting in multiple (sometimes as many as five) 2-inch conduits. Maybe Google is just trying to catch up. Or maybe they have bigger plans.

      Most likely AT&T is putting in 2" flex duct for major thoroughfares/feeder fibers. The orange kind on big spools. It's cheap, and installs quickly.

      For individual residential drops you can expect 1", or direct burial fiber.

    • by Jahmbo ( 807363 )
      Seems like a lot of trouble to go through for cat videos.
  • by 31415926535897 ( 702314 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @02:40PM (#51584803) Journal

    Most people don't know that many cities throughout the United States are already wired with "dark fiber"...

    except those who have been a part of Slashdot because it's been talked about before, more than once. E.G. (ca. 2005) http://tech.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

    If they actually start lighting it up in more places, however, that would indeed be good news.

  • Zayo and Level 3 don't just lay fiber and hope someone else will use it, they also provide ISP service to businesses. I've worked with both companies to light up buildings for either multi- or single-tenant use. Single tenant may require a multi-year commitment to make it worthwhile, but they can and will provide complete service from physical layer on up.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "for a variety of reasons, is never used to provide gigabit connections to actual residents"

    This means you've paid billions in Tax subsidies to telecom's only to get absolutely nothing in return but price gouging . The deal was for telecom's to wire everyone with fiber, but the United States Government is so corrupt and in bed with so many bribes by telecom's that the USA is behind like 30 countries as far as internet speed goes, and your tax dollars simply line the pockets of CEO's at these companies.

  • I'm glad google is doing this but the title here is over the top. Running fiber in a handful of high population cities is not 'all over the country'. This is like a half dozen cities at best. And they only cover the highest density areas. Google came to Austin last year and my address isn't covered even though I'm less than 25 minutes from downtown. This is great PR for them, but they are not really impacting that much. Still glad they are doing it but we should't act like they are hero's disrupting t

    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      Running fiber in a handful of high population cities is not 'all over the country'.

      Goggle bought tons of fiber optic lines that ran across the country and around metropolitan areas during the aftermath of the dot com bust, often paying pennies on the dollar in bankruptcy proceedings. The vast majority of those lines laid dark for the last 15 years. What Google haven't done until now is to build out "the last mile" in the local markets.

    • Yup. Title is a little premature. They lit it up some places -- if they make it an official policy, and say partner with one or two of these companies to have the ability to light up their dark fiber nationwide, then the title might make sense. Right now, we're not there yet.
    • Running fiber in a handful of high population cities is not 'all over the country'. This is like a half dozen cities at best. And they only cover the highest density areas.

      They have to start SOMEwhere.

      Google came to Austin last year and my address isn't covered even though I'm less than 25 minutes from downtown.

      Tell me about it.

      My ranch in Nevada has slow dialup - like 32kbps. (Options: Satellite. The local WISP stopped beaming my area.)

      My Silicon Valley townhouse has legacy half-MEGAbit DSL that flakes

  • This business model makes sense for Google since they can essentially sublease this fiber that they are leasing for more than they are paying. They can show an ROI for the investment since they will have no problem getting customers and that will pay off their fiber electronics quick enough. It often does not really make sense for most entities that want to actually use the leased fiber for their own needs as these leases represent significant opex costs, which come directly from the bottom line, as oppos
    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      This business model makes sense for Google since they can essentially sublease this fiber that they are leasing for more than they are paying.

      Google owns those fiber optic lines, they're neither leasing nor subleasing those lines. They made a 15 year bet that the market would someday turn around for excess fiber lines that were built and left for dark following the dot com bust.

  • Massive amounts laid along railroad tracks.
  • by darkain ( 749283 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @03:01PM (#51584987) Homepage

    Google isn't the only company doing this. CenturyLink just lit up old dark fiber in my neighborhood. I just got my gigabit install setup last night with them. It is really sweet to finally see some serious competition in the fiber to the home space after almost two decades of failed promises.

  • The city I live in has more dark fiber in the ground per unit area than just about any major American city, most of it owned by a subsidiary of a local utility company. However, nearly none of it goes near residential areas, it's strictly commercial, government and university areas that are served. This is not a solution to the "last mile" problem.
  • Right now, I'm stuck with Time Warner Cable at 15/1. ("Up to" 15Mbps which sometimes means 17Mbps and sometimes means 8Mbps.) There's no FIOS or anything else where I live. Faster speeds - up to 50mbps - are available, but cost a ton. I'd love if Google could light up some dark fiber in my neighborhood (Capital Region of New York). I'm not going to hold my breath, though.

  • Another much talked about project was the countrywide wifi network, wi-max or something. Google was supposedly trying to completely bypass all the cellular companies, provide free wifi for everyone in exchange for the permission to snoop even more deeply into your email traffic. What happened? It sold out to the cell companies?
    • Another much talked about project was the countrywide wifi network, wi-max or something. Google was supposedly trying to completely bypass all the cellular companies, provide free wifi for everyone in exchange for the permission to snoop even more deeply into your email traffic. What happened? It sold out to the cell companies?

      It requires infrastructure. Google tends to build and then announce, not announce and then let it become vaporware for years.

  • Google is lighting up dark fiber all over the country, and I'm lighting up blunts all over the country.

    Win-win.

  • A lot of people aren't aware of it, but Google has been using existing infrastructure like this for years; here's one of their older ads [google.com]. The difference? Note that it used to be free!
  • Are there maps of these dark fibers?

  • CURIOUS as to how much 'dark fiber' the NSA may be leasing within the United States for purely domestic purposes, and where. If there are any Mark Kleins [wikipedia.org] out there who have noticed anything funny, do share! This includes fiber leased to anything you may suspect is a shell corporation, for which you (the technician) can see that the paperwork is a bit odd; or an unusual number of individual fibers terminating in a locked room, where the normal requirement is a few.

    With the rise of cloud computing the issue

  • I've seen a ton of houses with a taped off fiber line sticking out of a pipe in the back yard. A decade or more ago.... WTF

    The rhetoric of bandwidth bottlenecks are kinda moot when the 1beeeelionBaseT light pipe is being chewed on by rover....BAD DOG!!! I might need that some day to get my email....

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