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  • Guest: Marc Dyman

  • Company: Fiberlight

  • The following transcript has been edited for length and readability. Listen to the entire discussion here on The Broadband Bunch

    Craig Corbin:

    Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of the Broadband Bunch. I’m Craig Corbin. In a time where fiber connectivity is of the essence, FiberLight, an Atlanta-based company, owns and manages over 1.7 million miles of robust fiber networks in 430 cities and towns across the United States. Over the last two decades, FiberLight has become an industry leading provider of high-performance network connectivity solutions for telecom carriers, government, enterprise, content providers, and web centric businesses.

    Craig Corbin:

    Our guest today is Marc Dyman, Chief Revenue Officer for FiberLight. Prior to joining the company three years ago, he served as Senior Vice President for Digital Realty Trust’s Co-location and Connectivity business unit.  His previous positions include Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Strategy for Time Warner Cable, as well as Vice President of Carrier Sales for XO Communications. In June of this year, Marc was recognized as one of Capacity Media’s annual Power 100 listing, a global index made up of the 100 most influential people in the wholesale carrier community.

    The FiberLight Story

    Craig Corbin:

    How about we start off with the FiberLight story.

    Marc Dyman:

    FiberLight has almost three decades of experience that were born out of, what I call, construction DNA. When we first started, we were very much focused on building custom networks for governments, large enterprises, and telecom operators of any kind.  We were building the fiber infrastructure. Later on, as we built the infrastructure and put together all those networks, we realized we had a pretty significant asset that we could start a service provider practice for fiber and really differentiate ourselves.

    Marc Dyman:

    Obviously, we own, deploy, operate and design the fiber and have the resources to put together any type of network that anyone would want. Then, we’re able to service more of the transactional business by bringing to the table an alternative fiber solution to some of the legacy networks are out there, and do that in a manner that we think differentiate it, which is opportunity to offer diverse fiber routes. Also, the density we offer that when we design and build these networks, there’s significant conduits and capacity that are put in there. These are FiberLight strengths that are helping us through this interesting time.

    Craig Corbin:

    That’s an understatement to call it an interesting time.  It does shine a light on the continuing importance of fiber access especially with regard to the need for connectivity in remote areas. How do new networks look in regard to the ability to connect cloud infrastructure and the adjustments to the current typologies that you’ve used for the last two decades?

    Quickly Scaling Remote Access Capabilities

    Marc Dyman:

    What we’re seeing is no surprise to anybody which is an absolute growth of people working out of their houses that was not planned for. When you think about the typologies in place – whether it’s a cable network area, or a DSL network, or even a wireless network in those areas to support that access – the challenge was to adjust to higher bandwidth demands and scale those networks according to the new usage patterns.  Prior to the pandemic, people were dialing in when they went home from the office to do some work and accessing the networks at night. Now it’s an all-day phenomenon and that’s a huge difference.

    Marc Dyman:

    And then, as these companies moved into this remote access environment, they didn’t all have a good plan. Some of them we found didn’t even have a remote access program. That drove them very quickly to adopt cloud-based platforms to implement a program in an expeditious manner. And then a lot of them because of fear for supply chain management issues or just the demand from the users spun up more servers in the cloud.

    Marc Dyman:

    Now if you can think about it, somebody sits at their house and they have to traverse a network that wasn’t really set up to handle that bandwidth. And now they’re hair pinning to a cloud destination that also has to scale with the right resources. The connectivity getting from that house to the core network, and then from the core network to the cloud, becomes paramount in how the user accesses the network and the experience they have. It is very much different from the corporate environment and being able to pivot to the cloud because you’re more connected to the core network there. That introduces challenges.

    Craig Corbin:

    With regard to the sheer demand across the spectrum, from the remote working, telehealth, distance learning, et cetera, and the shift in traffic patterns, were you concerned that the infrastructure would not be able to handle the intense demand over the last six months?

    Marc Dyman:

    No, the network was there. The ability to scale it, is more of the challenge. We saw some of the critical places like hospitals or energy companies and large enterprises immediately saying, “Hey, we need 10 times the amount of bandwidth that you have in place for us.” And so being able to scale that up very quickly was the bigger challenge. And for us, fortunately, the fiber infrastructure is already there in the ground, so it’s a matter of putting the electronics on it and being able to turn that capacity up.

    Evolution to Fiber Broadband Service Provider

    Craig Corbin:

    There has been an evolution in the industry from primarily custom network design builds to now more of a service provider approach. How has FiberLight made that transition?

    Marc Dyman:

    People want predictable environments. They want a predictable environment from the deployment standpoint, and they want a predictable environment from the post-sale environment, meaning if there’s a network outage, how is that diversity provided and how do we make sure we minimize the outage? As we moved into the service provider business, we’ve gone to standard network architectures.

    Marc Dyman:

    In our case, in a metro area, we have a design called a MAR ring, which stands for Metro Aggregation Ring.  Those rings are self-healing architectures with pre deployed equipment that have the capacity to scale up to 100 Mbs to 100 Gbs.  That really opens the ability for the end user to scale their business. Because that architecture is in place, we can go pretty quickly after we deploy and construct the fiber. Then on the post sales side, because they’re in a ring and they’re designed from a protection standpoint, traditional ethernet typically has been designed in a hub and spoke linear environment. This gives you the ability to protect those networks over time and give them a better user experience after it’s installed.

    Building for Resilient Fiber Networks

    Craig Corbin:

    With 130 data centers to date, how important are they to the design of the FiberLight network?

    Marc Dyman:

    We’ve always put a significant emphasis on the data centers and being able to partner with them and to bring fiber into them because we saw way ahead of the digital transformation evolution that there was going to be a need from the enterprise or the end user or the network provider to move those critical applications into a highly reliable power environment that just doesn’t go down or is not subject to outages. And we’ve continued and still do today continue to build into those facilities.

    Marc Dyman:

    What’s unique about it from our perspective is the way we go in there and the way we think about these places from just the physical entrance. We have multiple entrances of fiber built into different diverse laterals into those buildings. Then when you get back out to the core network rings, we have the ability to create diversity in our network.

    Marc Dyman:

    We’re seeing in the space that a lot of people are going in the data centers. It’s not just two different diverse routes. Now we’re getting asked for three, four, and even five routes from some of the hyperscalers that are going, “Hey, we need five different paths that diversity in a network coming out of there.”  So we’re building networks to support that diversity, which I think is the biggest thing.

    Marc Dyman:

    And then the second biggest thing is obviously the latency inside of those environments that can be tolerated.   That’s becoming more and more part of the discussion as we’re putting together arrangements and agreements and building networks for people.  A driver for why they choose FiberLight is, “Hey, can you meet that latency environment that’s required to come out of those networks?”

    Craig Corbin:

    Five layers of redundancy as a fail-safe for clients is amazing!  Does the number of fiber miles that you own and manage give you a lot of flexibility in the footprint that you can address?

    Marc Dyman:

    It does. As I mentioned, we’re not shy about going in and building more. As those people come and say, “Hey Marc. We need a ring bifurcated (to use the term in the industry).  We’ve got to cut that ring to drive lower latency or we’ve got to cut that ring to drive better diversity.” FiberLight is able to step up and do that. One, because we’re the construction company. Two, because we have the access points into the network to create that. And then, three, we have the understanding how to get that done inside of local government and regulatory entities.  It involves working with a lot of people and getting permits etc. that a lot of people, when building fiber, don’t know about the complex nature of those relationships.

    Building Fiber Networks for Scale and Diversity

    Craig Corbin:

    FiberLight has a huge presence in Texas. You literally cover it from tip to tip, side to side. That’s considered the number two data center market with Northern Virginia being the first and Atlanta, the number three market. FiberLight is extremely well positioned in all of those areas. Are you seeing tremendous growth there?

    Marc Dyman:

    We are. Having been in the data center business in the past, I don’t think I saw an opportunity that didn’t encompass Texas, Northern Virginia, and now Atlanta.  Atlanta has become quite popular based on some of the power costs that are there and some of the ecosystem availability of accessing a lot of networks there. We’re seeing a lot of growth in those areas.

    Craig Corbin:

    Last month FiberLight announced the completion of a project in Texas – a high capacity, low latency connection between Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Corpus Christi, Laredo, and McAllen. It really makes it a very easy business decision to connect to your network when so many buildings are directly on the network or close enough to extend the fiber.

    Marc Dyman:

    Because we have all these access points off that core fiber network, it’s very easy to splice fiber and literally build a lateral to commercial buildings or the data centers as we’ve been talking about.  There’s a third business, which is the tower business. We pass just about everything. We think about that when we’re building new fiber too. If we can meet the latency requirement for one of our customers and we’re building a new fiber core or bifurcating ring, we do put some thought into what else can we pass and still meet that customer requirement as we’re building that fiber?

    Working with WISPs

    Craig Corbin:

    Let’s talk more about the tower business you mentioned with regard to what FiberLight does when working with WISPs (Wireless Internet Service Providers) who are growing at an incredible rate everywhere across the country.

    Marc Dyman:

    The big genesis for some of our network in Texas is built on a wireless backbone. We’ve always had great relationships with the largest of MNOs that are out there. Those relationships continue to grow as 5G and all those things come into view and as the new network architecture gets built out. That’s high growth.

    Marc Dyman:

    But WISPs have really been a major growth area for us, not just in Texas, in some of our other markets too, because they’re able to come into some of these areas where we built some rural fiber. Not too long ago, I was out in Amarillo and I was driving around with a CTO of a company and he’s pointing to these neighborhoods and you’re looking at these beautiful houses and developments, and he’s like they don’t have broadband internet access. Here’s a huge neighborhood and they can get a DSL, unreliable, low bandwidth connection. We’ve been able to enable those WISPs to come into those markets with our rural fiber, get them the connectivity they need to get back to the internet network, get them back to the cloud networks, and be able to enable them over a diverse, reliable connection to now use their wireless networks to reach into those communities. We’ve seen awesome growth in that area. Great partners of FiberLight.

    Increasing Commercial Fiber Connectivity

    Craig Corbin:

    That has a big focus on the residential market. But back to commercial side, I was surprised to learn that 40% percent of commercial buildings with 25 or more tenants across the country do not have fiber connectivity.

    Marc Dyman:

    It is surprising when you think about that traditional tall, shiny or larger commercial building just doesn’t have that coverage. Then when you dip down into the less than 20 employees or so in a building, that number goes down to only 12% coverage. It showcases the need for fiber and the lack thereof in commercial areas in many parts of the United States.

    Craig Corbin:

    In looking at the metrics that are shown on the FiberLight website, it’s amazing the number of miles of network that you own and manage as well as upwards of 80,000 pre-qualified near net commercial buildings.

    Craig Corbin:

    Let’s circle back to our discussion of data centers. There is a very rigorous process that goes into evaluating the return on investment on accessing a particular data center or building. You had an experience in Texas recently where your return on investment came about a lot quicker than you might’ve previously imagined. Talk about that if you would.

    When You Build Fiber the Business Grows

    Marc Dyman:

    In the spirit of continuing to look at new data centers and opportunities, we were brought an opportunity through our partner group that said, “Hey, here’s a data center. And they have a lot of tenants in there, and FiberLight, you’re not here yet.” The initial application, which is usually how we go in, was to bring dark fiber to the building. This data center had an anchor tenant in place, and they were going to get dark fiber from us, they were going to put their own equipment on it and build it out. Less than six months after we started that up, we had three different new opportunities that came out of that data center. When we think about a business case, we really need only one additional transaction after that dark fiber transaction to make the business case profitable. Taking on those additional applications, which actually were lit services applications, was at such a velocity that it showcases the dynamics of building into a data center that has an ecosystem of tenants, networks and enterprises with just a rudimentary dark fiber connection.

    Marc Dyman:

    That gets socialized very quickly, whether it’s via a website or them reaching out to their tenants, “Hey, FiberLight’s now built in here, if you need them.” Then those people gravitating directly to my various sales and go-to-market channels to engage them and say, “Hey, we’d like 10 Gig. We’d like 100 Gig.” It was amazing to me to see how fast that it manifested itself to a very profitable business case much quicker than normally. It showcased the growth that’s coming out of those facilities.

    Growth of Dark Fiber

    Craig Corbin:

    Do you anticipate – given our current situation and the increased demand for connectivity across the board – that the dark fiber component of your business will continue to grow at an amazing rate?

    Marc Dyman:

    Yes it will.  It’s always been there on the network operators side. Where we’re seeing the growth is in the enterprise space and large enterprise space, which is really who we serve well. Those entities are looking for more control over their networks and they don’t want to be reliant on the service provider to place an order to turn up services.  Just think about the remote access situation we were talking about earlier. It’s like, “Oh my goodness. I need to turn up to 10 gig waves like yesterday.” And so having dark fiber and having that control, is a big driver that we see for that growth in that area.

    Fiber Assessment Tool

    Craig Corbin:

    FiberLight has a managed dark fiber service that you brought to market as a standardized offering. You are now offering an assessment tool that is available to prospective clients and customers. Talk about that if you would.

    Marc Dyman:

    It’s an offer that we’ve always had in our toolkit and we brought it to the table. People get the dark fiber value proposition of having control.  They get the financial benefits and all those things you would expect from it. The problem has always been realizing that value when you don’t have a staff, you don’t have relationships or even purchasing power with the equipment providers to then light that fiber to realize that value proposition? The offer that we brought to market really addresses all those issues and solves that problem.

    Marc Dyman:

    “Hey, Mr. Enterprise, Mrs. Enterprise, you want to be able to take advantage of this. Great. Now, here’s the program that allows us to procure the equipment and leverage the buying power that FiberLight has from those vendors. Now bring it and deploy it. Stage it, set it up for you, configure it for you. And then manage it ongoing. So you don’t have to uptake a major staff to take advantage of this, or have all this expertise you call us. You want to turn on a hundred meter wave. You want to turn up two 10 gig waves.” We’re able to have them call into a NOC and be able to take care of that for them. I think that’s key.

    Marc Dyman:

    Then what we did on the front side to really try to help folks down the path, because there’s often confusion. You hear dark fiber and there’s, I think, sometimes a mystique about this secret organization that “Ooh, we’re talking about dark fiber now. Those things are top secret.”  We demystify that. We put together a few questions that guide them through and provides them some information about, “Hey, here’s what you told us about what you have in place today, what your goals are, and what you’re looking for, how much you change, how much your bandwidth is growing.” And then we steer them down a path of where they need to go, whether it’s, “Hey, you guys have the resources? Great. Here’s dark fiber.” “Hey, you’re kind of on the edge of that. You might want to just look at high capacity services right now.” Or, “Hey, you do indeed need to move all the way to a managed dark fiber solution.”

    Fiber for 5G

    Craig Corbin:

    It’s difficult to have any conversation about fiber connectivity and growth without talking about 5G. I’m assuming that you are spending quite a bit of time looking at how that’s going to impact infrastructure needs in both the short and long term.

    Marc Dyman:

    We are.  We’re seeing the MNOs, new entrants coming into that business, and WISPs all moving to support some of those things. We’re certainly seeing that. It’s definitely a new architecture, as everyone knows. It’s shorter distances, it’s more density and it’s a different way of kind of putting the fiber in place to support that, which is a complete departure from the current architecture that’s been used out there today.

    Craig Corbin:

    There are so many forecasts out there with regard to the amount of investment over the next decade that will be spent on infrastructure. And a big part of that infrastructure are the micro cells, the micro towers that will be literally on every corner. There have been conversations about the number of fiber strands required to handle the capacity in various locations. From your perspective, would you ballpark on what folks will wind up seeing as far as the number of fiber strands in each of those micro-sites?

    Marc Dyman:

    The ones that we’ve been seeing that seems to be the pretty predominant number is somewhere between 10 and 12 strands of fiber to support each one of those individual locations.

    Working with Electric Coops

    Craig Corbin:

    We talked about the need to expand into remote areas and to address the digital divide. One segment of the industry that is on the forefront of that move are electric cooperatives. We are seeing a tremendous interest in those organizations serving their membership. Is there anything that you’re seeing from FiberLight’s perspective with regard to electric co-ops and broadband?

    Marc Dyman:

    Another great area for us. I view them in some respects to the same type of enablement that the wireless ISPs are doing. The co-ops bring more of a fiber based solution and infrastructure to the table in those rural areas. But the challenge for them, and where we partner with them, is what are the alternatives that they have in front of them to realize that broadband opportunity? If they’re serving up broadband internet to their cooperative, what are my upstream choices? What’s the reliability?

    Marc Dyman:

    And again, remote work is everywhere. Imagine being in these rural communities and you have this very limited choice in terms of what the cooperatives can upstream provide? FiberLight brings that diverse solution. We bring it on newer fiber and we enhance their choice and their diversity from what they may have in place today. We see them as great partners for us, and we’ve done extremely well. We are already serving some of the largest ones in Texas, and some in Virginia areas and some of our other markets. Those are great opportunities and great entities that we love to work with.

    Craig Corbin:

    I see them as uniquely positioned to be able to address the remote areas that are in the greatest need. I’m curious about the announcement, a couple months back, of a project that you worked on with Slice Wireless Solutions that is delivering public Wi-Fi and distributed antenna system capabilities to BWI airport in Baltimore, Washington International. Would you tell us some more about that?

    Marc Dyman:

    This is a great example of one of these wireless entities that was trying to further their business. They’re in a lot of different areas. This happened to be a significant project for them, where they were looking to displace an incumbent and, again, enhance the quality of the internet that’s provided to travelers through BWI.  They felt like they had the equipment and that whole coverage RF solution figured out. But again, it being Baltimore, even though a major city, it’s like what are the choices and how can I enhance the experience through the performance of the network? And how can I also keep pace with the financial requirements or business case requirements needed to put in such an infrastructure like that? It was a great relationship between what they brought to the table and then the fiber infrastructure we could bring them that allowed them as a total solution to displace the incumbent and win that piece of business. It’s an exciting story to tell and an opportunity that we were able to work together on.

    Closing Thoughts

    Craig Corbin:

    It is an exciting time in this industry, and it has to be refreshing both personally and professionally to be involved in something as essential as fiber connectivity across the country. Closing thoughts, from your perspective on what you see as the industry evolution over the next five to 10 years?

    Marc Dyman:

    I would say that the big thing, and we’re doing some of this inside of our network right now, is the evolution of software defined networking (SDN). I think that’s going to become a lot more pervasive. I think that SDN is going to drive more customer control. And I think that almost becomes table stakes. The ability to orchestrate services for customers for deployments is the big catalyst. But then there are secondary benefits that software defined networks bring to the table in the way that things get orchestrated and the way things get monitored.

    Marc Dyman:

    The systems we’re employing now are going to be looking into the network and be able to tell us that, “Hey, this fiber over here, something is degrading because we’re not actually seeing the same signal that we should be seeing on that type of fiber.” That allows us to be more proactive in the network to avoid the fiber cut or fiber outage. When you marry the front side – ease of turn up / self-service, if you will, for the customer to get that network – with the backside which is the intelligence to look into the network ahead of problems, that I think is a big evolution from what you’re seeing today. It’s there today, it’s just not as pervasive as I think it will be.

    Marc Dyman:

    I also think, and we touched on it a little bit earlier, that more and more private networks that leverage dark fiber will be put in place. Because of this explosive bandwidth growth that’s happening, people and entities have to have control over these networks, and when it’s go time, they have to be in a position to execute. Having and owning those private networks, I see that continuing to grow, and the need to have it available to support the growth is just huge.

    Marc Dyman:

    I would close in saying, that it’s the importance of the marriage between fiber infrastructure providers and data infrastructure providers, that will expand things off the charts because everybody’s pushing for more reliable environments. Those environments are having to be architected and put together in different ways than they were in the past. And so as both of those boats rise, I see those two areas continuing to grow together, to support the bandwidth needs out the marketplace.

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