Late last week, ground was apparently broken on a new intercity fiber project between New York City metro area and Ashburn, VA. They've got all the planning and rights of way in place, and were set to break ground on Friday. The company behind the project, United Fiber & Data, has some rather unusual backers.
The UFD network will take the high road to Ashburn, eschewing the popular and crowded I-95 corridor. Instead it will swing west through the Pennsylvanian cities of Allentown, Reading, Lancaster, York, and then pass through Frederick MD before swinging into Ashburn through the back door. The 300 mile route is a bit longer of course, although it will be designed to minimize latency as much as possible in all other ways. But it's the diversity and the stops along the way that will be the real selling points.
And the unusual backers? Three members from the rock band +LIVE+, Chad Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer and Chad Gracey, who hail from York PA. Many of the cities along this route have historically been relative bandwidth backwaters, York especially, and these guys have decided to turn a few of their platinum records into fiberoptic cable for their home turf. Likewise, the management team is led by industry veterans of USLEC and PPL Telcom (and others of course), companies that served the same region before being overtaken by consolidation a few years back.
Sounds like quite a project, and there are still many questions, such as just how the funding is really going to work. Remember that Allied Fiber and its vocal CEO Hunter Newby have been trying to put a similar route in place for some time now (also going out to Chicago of course) that also focused more on the in between destinations, but that project has yet to materialize. There is also Sidera's existing alternative that also takes a more westerly route, just not this westerly, thus competing for the same diversity-seeking customers.
The NYC to Ashburn/DC route is one of the most competitive wholesale routes on the planet, and building a new longhaul fiber route like this is hard to justify on paper. Even with a huge low latency advantage, Spread Networks' effort between NYC and Chicago has had some difficulty with the realities of the bandwidth markets. It's hard to see what UFD brings to the table beyond the good intentions of deep-pocketed locals in the region, but perhaps that's all they need if they're starting with enough funding and build smart. We shall see.
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