Governor Bevin of Kentucky backs the “fully” the downsized Kentucky Wired program to deliver fiber to the eastern counties of Kentucky – but is it doomed to fail? Has the Governor been led astray of false profits selling snake oil? Or has he been dealing with amateurs?
“The bulk of the project’s capital (about $271 million) is coming from the sale of bonds, which were sold with the understanding that $11 million annually in federal dollars to connect schools with broadband would flow to the project.
But a conflict-of-interest issue that arose when former finance cabinet deputy secretary Steve Rucker became head of the Kentucky Communications Network Authority — he has since resigned — resulted in the state abandoning the bid process for that money.” (WatchDog.org)
Although, getting fiber to the rural areas is an important task, the idea to deliver it under taxpayer money is a bad idea. The networks plan for design calls for “Pole Attachments” for more than 80% of all the fiber installed. The issue with this is that a majority of State or Federal Government agencies, that require a cyber secure infrastructure, will not be able to use a pole attached network. Why would we take a step back?
Let’s say an electric coop out in the eastern regions signs up to use this fiber network and puts most of its command and control of the electrical grid running through this new fiber infrastructure. What happens when an Islamist Terrorist decides to take a shotgun, or a truck, to take out a bunch of poles along the highway, or an isolated country road, where this fiber will be hung? At 50 yards you can take out a Pill Box hanging on the hung fiber and totally disport the network itself. With a truck...well you get the idea. What happens to the hospitals or the schools? How about all the local business and economy? How do you secure the fiber from encased fiber intrusion tools, that resemble pill boxes, and are used to clandestinely collect all the data being transmitted on the open fiber sections of the network? Who is going to protect such an infrastructure?
Once this issue is truly addressed then the State will see that using taxpayer money to fund a non-securable platform will fail. Who wants to put all their revenue operations, electrical grid or hospital patient records online using an open fiber network on pole attachments? The alternative to correcting such a design defect is to bury the fiber; install intrusion detection gear along points of the network; secure fiber splice points with video surveillance and access controls; create and resource the operations center to monitor and respond to any threats both physically and digitally; isolate traffic patterns with protected virtual network paths; and yes, go and replace any defective gear that may break down. Did you know that fiber has a 20-year life? Did you know that exposed fiber on pole attachments have less than a 10-year life? Who will maintain and upgrade the fiber in 10 years?
Understanding that the alternative will be very costly to maintain, means that the existing business model the State is currently using for its fiber deployment will not survive. The State essentially is falling into the same botched business model that failed the real fiber ISP players in the same market – without the paid and fixed tenant clients, there is not enough revenue to capitalize the build out, thus the wasteful spending of taxpayer money. But that’s not even the half of it.
Had the State combined its efforts as part of the Public Safety Broadband Network, an effort the State will be required to build anyway, would have attracted way more customers, thus had enough revenue to sustain its capital requirements. As it stands though, the hardening requirements for the Public Safety Broadband Network, or any cyber initiative, will require a hardened solution that will not allow for accessible points of entry that can’t be controlled, i.e. pole attached fiber networks. What I’m saying is that Governor Bevin is possibly being influenced by some ill-informed subject matter experts that is in fact installing a fiber network that will be useless in the future, thus a waste of taxpayer money and the State’s time. Nothing worse for telecom than building a fiber network that will be useless in the eyes of the constituents and the State's hardened requirements for securing the network. “Just another boondoggle” is what they will say.
I do offer a solution though. Come clean and abandon the fiber network and rope it into the State’s Public Safety Broadband effort by enlisting a true Public Private Partnership to deliver a State a fully funded (no taxpayer money) and self-sustaining broadband solution that will meet all user requirements at all levels. Take a look at the recent RFP for the State of Alabama – a perfect example of what you should be doing.
But who am I other than….
Just some guy and a blog….