Facebook fiber build in Virginia

Facebook, Appalachian Power and GigaBeam are each playing a role in supporting a new broadband build in rural Grayson County, Virginia – an area in the Blue Ridge Mountains where 57% of citizens lack broadband access.

GigaBeam will be making broadband service available to 6,000 unserved households in the area via fiber-to-the-home and wireless internet beginning this fall. But according to a Facebook blog post, the deployment might not have been possible without the involvement of Facebook and Appalachian Power.

Facebook’s role is related to the long-haul fiber routes it is building to connect its Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina data centers. The company wants geographically diverse routes to its facilities and to achieve those, the company either purchases dark fiber already available in the area from a network operator or builds its own routes.

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“When completed, these new routes will open up the potential for small local carriers to make use of excess capacity to provide connectivity to underserved areas, such as Grayson County,” Facebook explains in the blog post.

Appalachian Power’s role relates to a middle-mile fiber network that will be built along the company’s infrastructure grid. The power company obtained regulatory approval from state authorities to build that network.

GigaBeam will connect to the Appalachian Power network and will also benefit from Facebook’s deployment.

As the Facebook blog post puts it, “We brought our . . . long-haul network, allowing vastly increased access to backhaul while also bringing considerable engineering, construction and technical resources. . . Our involvement in this project helped define standards between Appalachian Power and GigaBeam Networks, allowing for the faster finalization of network design and enabling everyone to start building sooner.”

The new Virginia deployment is the latest example of Facebook building its own fiber network where needed to interconnect data centers and then making capacity on the network available to broadband providers.

Facebook first highlighted this approach in 2019 when it established a subsidiary to offer connectivity on the company’s fiber routes on a wholesale basis.

Since then, the company has highlighted the wholesale connectivity option as it announced fiber routes.

Earlier this year, for example, Facebook said it would build an Indiana fiber network to connect some of its data centers and would make capacity on that network available on a wholesale basis.

In at least one case, Facebook partnered with another provider on a long-haul fiber build. In early 2020, Facebook and the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) partnered on a network in the state designed to connect a Facebook data center and support connectivity to anchor institutions including some in rural area.

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