Broadband Fiber Options


When deciding how to connect your schools to fiber, there are a number of options to consider. Districts can procure a fully managed lit fiber service from a provider or they can procure different types dark fiber to create their own transport services.


Lit fiber

refers to fiber-optic cable that has been installed and activated by carriers (service providers). The provider owns and manages the network while the school district pays a recurring fee to have data transported over it. Currently, leased lit fiber is the most common way that school districts and businesses receive transport and Internet access.

Is it possible to use residential fiber services for schools?

Dark fiber

refers to fiber-optic cable that has already been installed but is not yet in use. It is typically sold without any equipment on the ends of the fiber (this service is known as leased dark fiber) and the customer is responsible for adding the electronics at both ends. This service could be a viable alternative to “lit” services, as it provides cost and scalability advantages.

Learn more about the benefits and challenges of dark fiber.

Self-Provisioned

refers to a district-owned broadband network. A school pays a vendor to construct a fiber network that they own, maintain, and operate. This can be a good solution for schools in areas where service providers have little economic incentive to build out fiber-optic networks and have been unable to find affordable high-speed broadband.

Learn more about the benefits and challenges of self-provisioned fiber.

Deciding which solution to choose can be difficult, although it can be beneficial to consider and compare the relative cost of various options. Self-provisioning vs. a leased fiber service is a classic “own vs. rent” comparison where the economics of the different options will be presented to you very differently, and you will need to model the two options in order to compare them equally. To support districts in their decision-making process, EducationSuperhighway has developed a Fiber Cost Comparison Model to calculate the comparative cost over time of lit vs dark fiber options. The model provides information to determine which fiber solution is most cost-effective in the longer term, as well as supporting data for your decision when applying to USAC for E-rate funding.

Accurate comparison of the economics of lit, dark and self-provisioned fiber is complex.  In order to fully understand the Cost Comparison Tool, EducationSuperHighway can provide you with a short tutorial to ensure you maximize your use of the tool.  Please Contact Us for your copy of the model and free coaching session.

Apart from the comparison of costs, it is also critical to consider other factors such as timing, resource demands, skill requirements, and fiber network quality factors (latency, link loss, budgets, plant design, etc) for all the services you are interested in. The ability to meet the operational requirements of each type of service varies among school districts. Every school and district should consider the different options based on their own unique situation and get a number of competitive bids including pricing and project timelines before making their decision.