A new long-haul fiber provider is entering the market. 3Red8 has announced plans a plan to build across the U.S. The initial network to be completed by 2027 is shown on the map below. The network is starting in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. The first route will be between Myrtle Beach, SC and Ashburn, VA. Myrtle Beach will connect to undersea fiber routes, and Ashburn is one of the major Internet hub sites for the east coast, along with New York City and Atlanta.
This is good news for the whole country. At the exponential rate of broadband growth, we don’t have enough backhaul fiber in place to handle the volumes of Internet traffic that will be carried a decade or two from now. It’s great to see new providers jumping in to fill that need. I wrote a blog earlier this year about a similar effort by Zayo, which is beefing up a lot of its existing fiber routes to 300 Gbps transport while also investing in new fiber routes. Level 3, AT&T, and others are also making investments.
3Red8 will act like all long-haul fiber networks and will sell transport to the big carriers that want to transport data between data centers, for cellular networks, and for similar large broadband uses.
However, 3Red8 has a business plan that is unique among long-haul fiber providers. Like all long-haul fiber, the new network will have fiber repeater huts roughly every fifty miles along the network to boost the fiber signal – something that’s mandatory to send fiber signals for long distances. 3Red8 says it will make each of these locations available to connect to small ISPs, communities, and other local needs for connectivity along the routes. Many long-haul fiber providers do not like making small connections on long-haul routes because the revenue is so good from the long-haul business that they don’t want to set aside any fibers for this kind of business.
But that’s only the beginning of the 3Red8 story. The company plans to give back to the communities it passes with its networks. 3Red8 plans to partner with ISPs and communities along its routes to help solve the digital divide. It will do this in several ways. First, it will offer affordable connectivity to local ISPs willing to serve last-mile broadband. That’s going to be a valuable benefit where the network passes through places like Appalachia and other unserved and underserved communities.
If that’s all that the company planned to do, it would be a boon to many local communities. But 3Red8 plans to go a lot further. The company is already working to establish a revenue-sharing arrangement where communities along the fiber will be funded with some portion of the revenue generated by the long-haul network. This funding can be used to support local ISPs, cooperatives, or municipalities to help find long-term broadband solutions. It will be up to communities to decide to best use this funding. One community might use this funding to help support broadband to farms. Another might use it to extend broadband into rough mountain terrain. Communities might use the funding for digital literacy programs.
I’ve already seen that this program is real because the company is already meeting with communities in North Carolina and nearby Virginia. I know that some of the communities along the fiber routes are excited about a collaboration with 3Red8.
It’s wonderful to see a company that gets it. Most of the large ISPs have a charitable arm, often through a foundation funded by the corporation. I don’t want to denigrate the charitable efforts of any big corporation, but they tend to give money away in public ways that make for good photo ops. 3Red8’s vision is different – they are going to be profitable from transporting Internet traffic from coast to coast, and they want to use some of that profit to make sure that everybody close to their fiber network can get the full benefits of good broadband.