AT&T, Verizon, others warm to dark fiber

A relic of the go-go '90s, dark fiber is once again en vogue, driven by emerging services such as small cell backhaul, data center connectivity and the FCC's E-Rate program.

Dark fiber comes in two forms: unused fiber cable from excess lines and purpose-built dark fiber networks and routes. And it's a divisive issue, with a group of newer fiber-focused providers and some regional cable operators, including Summit IG, Fatbeam, Axiom, Cross River, Cleareon, Cross River Fiber, Wilcon and USA Fiber, differentiating themselves by bypassing legacy network route choke points.

Alternatively, traditional telcos remain reticent to provide it to competitors for two reasons. ILECs want to use it for internal purposes like backhauling their own network traffic, but don't want to unnecessarily enable another provider to challenge them in a given market. Regardless, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T(NYSE: T), which do offer some dark fiber services to CLECs and government agencies due to FCC and government mandates, see its value.

FierceTelecom has a look at how this '90s-era relic fits into today's telecom business. You can read the latest FT special report here.