On Thursday, Level 3's CEO Jim Crowe was asked about on-net building count (~8200), and he took the opportunity to comment the metric itself and offered an alternative:
Personally I think you should tell people how many square feet you have on that as opposed to buildings, because two or three buildings here in New York are worth 50 buildings in Peoria. That is a much, much more relevant metric: how many square feet of enterprise building.
A very good point! While square footage on-net isn't perfect either, it would be a very valuable metric in understanding fiber-based business models. The only reason I collect building count as a starting point is because the data is there, and it does at least give us a sense of who is digging up the streets and who isn't. But I'd collect square footage on-net in a heartbeat if the data were available. Then I'd take a look at metrics like on-net square footage per route mile, per fiber mile, etc to see what's in there - and I have only a vague idea what I'd find.
However even Level 3 doesn't offer up that data yet that I know of. The only place I recall hearing similar data offered is from Cogent's Dave Schaeffer at some presentation in the past that I'll try to dig up. But that doesn't mean we can't try to start a new trend! So I'm going to take Jim Crowe up on his suggestion.
I hereby request the square footage of enterprise buildings on-net from any fiber operator willing to share it -- public or private, ILEC or CLEC or MSO, national or local, foreign or domestic. Any takers? Comments for or against?