Open service provider networks

As Design Nine works with more and more communities on broadband development, I have become convinced that the only financial model that is going to work over the long term is the Open Service Provider Network (OSPN). What this means is that the network is designed, constructed, and managed specifically to allow and support a marketplace of service providers that compete for subscribers.

It does not really matter if your broadband system is part of a privately owned duopoly (i.e. the cable or telephone companies), or if your system is municipally owned. If you don't have choice for services, you are going to pay more for those services and get less for your money.

The longer term issue is financial viability. With a private company or government officials choosing which of a handful of services they think you should have, there just is not enough money flowing through the system to support and maintain a broadband network over decades. It is not enough to get the system built; you have to have a business model that will produce enough income to pay for maintenance and system upgrades over the long term. Many of the public systems that seem to be doing well right now are likely, in my opinion, to run into capacity and maintenance problems five to seven years out, as equipment wears out and/or requires upgrades.

The beauty of an OSPN system is that you don't put limits on either services or revenue. As new services become available, new income streams to help pay for maintenance and upgrades also becomes available. This is completely different from the current model of simply selling chunks of bandwidth, which immediately puts a cap on how much revenue is returned to the network operator (i.e. the community).

The good news is that there is off the shelf OSPN systems available. I was in Houston, Texas this week to see a cable TV operator preparing to roll out an OSPN, all fiber network, and the versatility of the system was simply amazing. If you would like to know more about OSPN designs and how to finance a community broadband network, give Design Nine a call. We'll be glad to help.