Several years ago, the European Union adopted the Digital Agenda. It states that by 2020, all Europeans should have Internet access of at least 30Mbps. By the same year, half of European households should even be able to subscribe to 100Mbps. In the Netherlands, 300,000 homes and businesses are still deprived of fast Internet.

Fiber optic networks are rapidly being rolled out in many municipalities. Large market players like Ziggo and KPN are investing feverishly to gain market position by connecting entire residential areas to fast Internet. A good business case because residential neighborhoods in the Netherlands are often compact with many potential connections per square kilometer. That way it is not difficult to recoup the investment within a reasonable time.

The business case is a lot harder when it comes to homes in rural areas or on business parks. Here the addresses are further apart and more meters have to be dug for a single connection. You also see that in these business parks the larger companies, or companies for whom a fast Internet connection is essential, have already had an expensive fiber optic connection installed at their own expense.
Because of the above, there are still very many business areas in the Netherlands that do not have a fiber network, leaving companies to rely on, for example, ADSL or vDSL connections. These connections, over the copper network that has often been laid in the ground decades ago, are often slow and of poor quality. But to lay down € 10,000.00 to have a fiber connection dug to your company and then pay at least € 500.00 per month for the subscription, is going too far for many entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, the consequence is that they have to keep working with slow, sometimes faltering, connections. This puts possibilities such as working completely in the Cloud or other digital opportunities out of reach for these companies.

Collective construction of a fiber optic network.

If large market players could be sure that if they built a fiber network in a business park, at least a certain percentage of the companies would subscribe, they would build this network immediately. The trick for this type of area is collectivity. If enough companies commit to a fiber optic Internet subscription, the investment is suddenly within reach and the monthly subscription costs also become more real.

Necessary is then a certain degree of organization of the entrepreneurs on the business park. Think here of an active business association, a park management organization, etc. From this organization one can then start collecting letters of intent from the various companies. Admittedly, this is a big job that not everyone is looking forward to, but the reward is obvious.

The trick for this kind of field is collectivity.

When there are enough letters of intent, two paths can then be taken:

1 - Transferring to a commercial party

There will certainly be commercial fiber optic providers who, with the letters of intent in their hands, now suddenly do want to invest. The advantage here is that the work is done by this party and no further effort is required from the entrepreneurs who often do this voluntarily alongside their own businesses. The disadvantage is that the whole area, in terms of Internet connection, is tied to that one commercial provider. So you have no influence on their exact offer and quality, nor can you switch to another fiber optic provider.

2 - Building an open fiber network yourself

Alternatively, with the letters of intent in hand, the business owners themselves could go ahead and build a fiber optic network on their property. A contractor will then be hired to lay the network over the entire area or only to the businesses that have expressed interest. The financing of this construction will have to come from the entrepreneurs themselves. This can be done by taking out a loan from a bank or other financier, by using money from the association's coffers, by having the entrepreneurs themselves pay for the construction by each contributing their share, or a mix of these options.

Of course, a design must be made for the network in advance, a financially sound business case must be made, the right permits must be applied for, soil research must be done, and the construction itself must be supervised. And an association or foundation must be set up that will soon own the fiber optic network. All this is such specialized work that it is definitely advisable to hire a company with experience in this field. These companies exist and do this regularly.

It sounds like a lot of work with many snags. And it is, but the advantages are clear. Because the network will soon be owned by the foundation or association (read: by the entrepreneurs), it is an open network. This means that multiple Internet providers can deliver on it. In any case, this creates the possibility of competition on your network, which in turn results in freedom, better prices and services for the entrepreneurs. In addition, these providers must pay the foundation for delivering over their network. This allows them to recoup the closed financing and maintain the network. After paying off this financing, the association or foundation will even start to make a profit. This profit can then be used to upgrade the network in the future and reduce monthly subscription fees. Thus, the money again benefits the customers, or entrepreneurs.

This means multiple Internet providers can deliver

The role of the municipality

The municipality, within which the business park is located, will also have to take its role. Anyway, from its public law duty, the municipality will have to be involved to issue the appropriate environmental permits for the construction. But the municipality can do more, depending on how much importance it attaches to its entrepreneurs and the competitive position of the business park. Indeed, the latter improves greatly when a fiber optic network is in place.

For example, a municipality can support entrepreneurs by thinking along, actively cooperating, making land available for a so-called switch box or by providing process money. A municipality may not use its public money for the construction of fiber optics because of competition law, but may, for example, sponsor to hire an organization that can supervise the entire process.

So there is now fiber in my business park..... and now?

When an open network is chosen and the above steps are completed properly, you are not there yet. There are only cables in the ground that run to a central point. No data passes through the glass yet.

The physical fiber optic network is called "layer 1" in the Internet world: The first layer needed to get an Internet connection. The provider who actually provides the Internet connection, television connection or whatever service is called 'layer 3.' This can be any conceivable party on your open network, and anyone can bring in their own 'layer 3' party. However, it is still necessary to 'shine light' through fiber optics. In other words, there must be a party that connects your fiber network to the rest of the world and ensures that that connection is maintained.

This is called a 'layer 2' party. It is important to hire a good 'layer 2' party who will make sure that your fiber network is always well exposed and keep in touch with 'layer 3' parties who are eager to deliver on the network. The company you have brought in to guide the process can put you in touch with good 'layer 2' providers.

Fiber optic Uithoorn

It sounds like a difficult and long process. Sometimes it is, but well worth it and many have gone before you! Nice example is the Uithoorn business park, where a very competitive open fiber network has been constructed (www.glasvezeluithoorn.nl). This business park has thus increased its competitiveness and is much more attractive to new businesses. Companies in this day and age often cannot do without fast and good internet. An open network as in Uithoorn is then often the right choice for your business park.