Do It Yourself FTTH
you think that creating a FTTH network is only
possible if you have the resources of a Verizon or
Google? That you need a contractor with lots of
experience in designing and installing the fiber
network? Or an IT department who can install and
operate the equipment? Well, think again...AND
DO NOT MISS THE END OF THIS STORY!
2014, FOA was contacted by Greg Turton of Cordele, GA. who
was curious about what was involved in creating a FTTH
network. Greg is a real estate developer who also owns
several local hotels. Where he lives and builds homes is
way outside of a service area that anybody wants to build
good broadband, forget FTTH. Cordele itself has a
population of only about 15,000 and is one of those small
cities along the Interstate highway that are everywhere in
We answered Greg's questions and led him to some of the
FOA Guide web pages and YouTube videos about FTTH to get
him started. More conversations discussed how to get
connections as an ISP, types of components and suppliers,
etc. Fortunately the local electrical utility has lots of
fiber but they were restricted from building their own
FTTH network because Georgia was one of 19 states where
lobbyists for the incumbent providers got laws passed
restricting their ability to operate a FTTH system
themselves. But they were more than willing to lease dark
fiber to Greg at really good rates. And there were good
choices on getting an Internet connection. As he got more
serious about the project, we introduced him to two FOA
Master Instructors, Eric
Pearson and Dominick
Tambone, in Atlanta, just two hours away.
Greg hired Eric to come to Cordele and train him and
several more of his people. Eric taught them how to work
with cable, prepare the cable and splice it, dress cables
in splice closures, pedestals, manholes, etc. Eric,
Dominick and the FOA had many conversations with Greg
about his project and the potential suppliers to it. As
construction began, Dominick came down to Cordele to help
with the early installations.
Now that you know where we're going with this story, let's
talk about Greg. He is not your usual fiber optic project
manager. First he is a second generation developer,
following in his father's footsteps. He is accustomed to
getting into the depths of a project, understanding the
risks and making investments. He's also a "tinkerer" - he
likes projects and challenges. He's a private pilot who
has invented and manufactures two types of air
conditioners for small airplanes which he built in his
shop and tested in his own airplane. He makes electrical
hardware he invented for his own hotel to make using tech
devices more convenient for his guests. He also has a
great crew of people working for him and lots of local
To Greg, FTTH was another challenge, and after he became
educated himself, he knew he and his crew could build it
And they did!
FOA visited Greg and his crew recently (they now are known
Fiberworx") and saw what they have done. It's
amazing - simply amazing - and should be an inspiration to
any other group wanting to build their own system. Here's
some photos and descriptions of their project.
Greg Turton. Greg and his crew had a lot to learn and
accomplish before the project even started, as we
mentioned above. They also had to figure out how to
document the system as they designed and built it,
something they accomplished using Google Earth.
they started buying equipment for splicing and testing,
the needed a splice trailer. No problem, they built one.
on their training, they knew they needed a splicing
trailer for work in the chageable South Georgia weather. A
small converted travel trailer provided the base for their
splicing trailer and they furnished the inside with a work
counter and racks and cabinets for storage. Air
conditioning was furnished by a local company that wants a
fiber connection themselves. The white rectangle on the
right is the entry for the fiber optic cables being
spliced - a converted home doggy-door!
than investing in heavy equipment, they rent from local
companies. They converted a large utility trailer to carry
cables and conduit.
cables were installed by trenching. In an area that has
lots of underground utilities, they had to be very
careful. They started by calling utilities before they
started and manually digging holes before using the
backhoe. Finding after a few near-misses that wasn't
sufficient, they bought a top quality underground locator
and learned how to use that to double-check before
avoid digging up paved roads or driveways, they used
directional boring. It also worked well for several
bridges crossing small streams.
closures were put into hand holes or pedestals like
this one. The cable was laid along two lane roads
along with other utilities.
Greg with one of the equipment pedestals needed to get
connections into a remote area.
splice trays - they learned well from Eric Pearson's
Greg and David Herlovich, his assistant, with the
equipment for their head end. They chose ADTRAN equipment
for their system because of their reputation, knowledge
and support, plus they are nearby in Huntsville, AL so
Greg can fly his plane over to visit the factory when
proof is in the performance, of course. This is a computer
at Greg's house connected to his network doing a
there you see the results of the speedtest on a "do it
yourself" gigabit FTTH network.
we visited Greg in November, 2015, Southern Fiberworx had
just started installation. They had already connected 30
homes and had over 100 scheduled for installation. His
original goal was to pass about 800 houses in his
development and sign up 30-40%. Southern
Fiberworx works like Google Fiber; get your
neighbors together and sign up and they build that
While we were in Cordele, we talked to some local
businesses and discovered that what Greg had been telling
us was true - the local enthusiasm for what he was doing
was amazing and people want to get connected ASAP. Because
Greg knows practically everybody in town and has talked to
many as he got permits and help building the system so
far, they know what he's doing and want him to expand
beyond his development to cover the entire town. As the
word spread, the county expressed similar interest in his
expanding the Southern Fiberworx footprint to cover the
county. Then the next county approached him with the same
While we were in Cordele, Greg asked us to visit his
bankers who wanted to know more about building a FTTH
network - you know, from the investment point of view. To
date, no kidding, Greg has funded Southern Fiberworx out
of his pocket! Yes, it does not cost that much to get
something like this started. But if he expands to the city
of Cordele and the two local counties, he may need to get
financial backers. We pointed out to the bankers that FTTH
provides high income with little overhead making good cash
flow. In addition, recently two CATV systems had been sold
for $5-6000 per subscriber - a whole lot more than it cost
to connect each of Southern Fiberworx subscribers on
gigabit FTTH. If that's not a good return on investment,
Southern Fiberworx is not the only independent FTTH
network FOA has been working with. We get calls often
asking how to get started and this is the best example we
have seen yet!
late 2014, Kevin Short, General Manager of the Anza
Electrical Cooperative called FOA to ask questions
about building a fiber optic network. FOA visited Kevin
and subsequently met with the Board of Directors of the
Coop to discuss ideas about building a fiber network over
their electrical network. Their electricity supplier was
pushing them to build fiber for grid management (Smart
Grid) and it seemed reasonable to assume that once the
backbone was built, expanding to provide Internet to their
customers was possible.
Short, GM, Anza Electrical Cooperative
There was certainly a desire for better Internet because
they did not have any. It's easy to understand why. Anza
is really, really rural - located in the Southern
California high desert at the southern end of Mount San
Jacinto State Park.
Anza gets their electricity from an electric cooperative.
With the help of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who established
the Rural Electrification Administration in 1936, friends
and families banded together to create a new kind of
electric utility, where the voice of every person made a
difference. Electric cooperatives brought electric power
to the countryside when no one else would. Electric
cooperatives are owned by their members and focus on their
member needs and local priorities.
Anza Electric Cooperative, Inc. (AEC), energized in 1955,
is a member of Touchstone Energy® - the national brand of
electric cooperatives - providing power to the communities
of Anza, Garner Valley, Pinyon Pines and parts of Aguanga.
AEC provides power to 3900 homes, schools and businesses.
AEC's service area is nearly 700 square miles of high
desert with an elevation at roughly 4,000 feet where
winter weather can sometimes be a challenge. Anza is
located at an almost equal distance from Palm Desert,
Hemet and Temecula in Riverside County in Southern
fiber backbone run along their electrical lines.
While Anza is quite rural, it was only an hour's travel
from FOA HQ (then in Fallbrook, CA), so FOA President Jim
Hayes volunteered to do a series of half-day training
session for AEC personnel on fiber optics and installation
practices to familiarize them with what they would be
doing in the future to learn from the project so we could
share it with our readers.
AEC applied for and got a grant from the California Public
Utility Commission for $2.6 million, about $700 per
household, to help pay for the project. One thing is
important to understand about rural projects - they cost a
lot more than urban or suburban FTTH networks, and the
CPUC grant would cover only about half the total cost.
Since AEC is a coop, a bylaw change was voted on by Anza
Electric Cooperative members with an overwhelming 91.3% of
members approving the bylaw change to include fiber optic,
high speed internet service to our members along with our
traditional electric service.
- mostly ranches and mountains
dubbed the AEC project "FTTR" for "fiber to the ranch"
because of the typical customers in the service area!
do the design of the network, AEC used a unique solution.
They enlisted Jeffery Willis, a local resident who was a
student at the University of Colorado, Boulder's
Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program, to do the
design as expansion of a pre-existing Master's Capstone
project that AEC assisted him with. This was a
brilliant idea due the success of this college feasibility
study. Before getting started, Jeff performed a plethora
of research and development on all aspects of the design,
including a survey of design software which he shared with
FOA for our readers. FOA (JH) helped him with some fiber
issues but he had relatively little trouble doing a very
good design for the project. "
fiber backbone plan
Much of the backbone ran along roads in the mountains that
connect the various population areas of the AEC service
area. Some areas had restrictions on where cables could be
run because the roads were designated "scenic routes."
One thing to consider in a project like this - you need
LOTS of cables! Anza had to store over a dozen spools of
cable - 20kft (about 4 miles or 6km) each, weighing
about 1600 pounds (726kg) each! Another thing they learned
was the length of the backbone was not the length of the
cable. They had to order 10-12% extra cable to accommodate
service loops, drops for splice closures, etc.
than 50 miles (80km) of cable stored in a AEC building.
also needed more equipment, including this bucket truck
purchased used, cleaned up and made into a rolling
advertisement for "Connect
bucket truck advertises Connect
Installation of the cable plant for ConnectAnza was
somewhat out of the ordinary. The area covered by the coop
included some areas without telephone service and poles
and/or messenger wires needed to be installed in many
areas. One section had to be bridged with wireless because
the rod was a "scenic highway" and poles and aerial cable
were not allowed!
Installing messenger wires on the coops electrical poles.
Splicing was done on the ground, often in the desert.
closure has provision for a PON splitter and several drop
The head end for ConnectAnza is installed at their main
office in the town of Anza. This rack includes the router
for their Internet service and the ADTRAN OLT equipment.
In the bottom of the rack is the backup batteries, an
important part of the equipment for an ISP.
is now a fully functional ISP, one of the most rural
systems we know. They are proof that rural FTTH can be
built and it is certainly welcomed by their subscribers.
From no service, coop subscribers can get 100/100Mb/s
service for $49/month, 300/300 for $79/month. Low income
residents have a basic service of 20/20Mb/s for $20/month.
Information on FTTX From The FOA
in MDUs (Multiple Dwelling Units)
PON Standards, Specifications and Protocols
Customer Premises Installation
Case Studies: Do-It-Yourself FTTH
U Online FTTx Self Study Program (free)
FTTx Certification Requirements
Table of Contents: The
FOA Reference Guide To Fiber Optics