Florida Contract Creates Wholesaler Network
By Kim Sunderland
Florida Fiber Networks Inc.
(www.ffn.cc), a newly developed dark fiber company in the Orlando area, signed a contract with the Florida Department of Transportation
(www.dot.state.fl.us), in coordination with the Florida Department of Management Services
(www.state.fl.us/dms), to create, install and maintain what could be the nation’s largest public/private fiber optic network along 2,200 miles of Florida’s Turnpike and interstate highways.
In a barter deal designed to save taxpayers $1.2 billion during the life of the contract, FFN will make ducts and fiber available for lease to any telecom company willing to spend the rent money.
The 2,200 additional miles of fiber that FFN expects to install will supply much-needed bandwidth for the state’s high-tech industry, officials say. The network also helps close the digital divide by offering low-cost Internet connections in rural areas, officials add. This will help improve access to health, education and other social services information.
“We have six companies already signed on to lease fiber, and we haven’t turned a shovel yet,” FFN executive vice president Carl Bagwell says. “We plan on starting the job in late September or early October.”
Here’s the way the public/private contract is set up: Wholesale carrier FFN of Lake Mary, Fla., was granted a 99-year lease on DOT’s right of way. The company will place fiber and duct along the state’s four major interstate
corridors (I-95, I-75, I-10, I-4), as well as Florida’s Turnpike.
Fiber rings will be placed around Tampa, Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville. FFN will build the entire statewide fiber optic network and provide 99 years of operations and maintenance services at no cost to DOT. The company’s financial incentive comes from potential renters.
DOT will employ the fiber network to support its Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) effort, which will use technology to save motorists time, money and, in some cases, their lives.
“The fiber optic network will benefit Florida’s citizens, visitors and businesses by allowing us to link all of the traffic management tools on our urban and rural roadways,” says Tom Barry, Florida’s DOT secretary. “We will enhance our quality of life by significantly decreasing emergency response time to crashes. We will also provide real-time access to road information via the Internet so travelers can check out traffic congestion before they leave for work.”
The agreement puts Florida in the fast lane of fiber network technology compared to similar efforts in the other 49 states, says Roy Cales, the state’s chief information officer. The partnership also is expected to promote highway safety, enhance statewide e-business opportunities, and expand both governmental and commercial telecommunications services.
FFN president William Blackmer says the public/private fiber optic network will be delivered in a record two years.
The FFN project team is comprised of:
- MasTec Inc. (www.mastec.com): end-to-end, fiber optic network engineering and installation;
- KNT: right-of-way engineering;
- Bear, Stearns & Co. (www.bearstearns.com): financial advisor; and
- Precision Contracting Services: fiber optic testing.
PB Farradyne Inc. (www.pbfi.com) assisted DOT and DMS in reviewing the four fiber optic network proposals that were submitted in May and in negotiating the final lease agreement.