The Growing Importance of Dark Fiber

One-On-One with Bill Cook, Executive Chairman, Bandwidth IG (BIG)

Digital infrastructure industry veteran Bill Cook is known for his tenacity when it comes to building and operating telecommunications networks. Currently, Cook serves as executive chairman of Bandwidth Infrastructure Group, board member of Vivacity Networks, and as an advisor to several other companies.

Cook founded SummitIG in 2012 and led it to become one of the most robust dark fiber network in the data center capital of the world in Northern Virginia. He served as the company’s CEO until 2019. Cook has served in multiple leadership roles throughout his career with MCI Telecommunications, Metromedia Fiber Networks, Intellifber Networks, and OnFiber Communications.

In an exclusive interview InterGlobix Magazine’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief Jasmine Bedi, we bring you Cook’s insights on the growing importance of dark fiber and Public Private Partnerships (PPP). Cook also shares with us some of his unique accolades in our special iG Informal Interactions section where he talks about how he carried the lessons learnt in football field into a life of service to the community.

You have been in the connectivity industry for over three decades. What have been the major shifts that you have seen? 

When I began my career at MCI we were building long haul networks and installing what were then cutting edge, large cables. These networks connected population centers and there was a modest amount of interconnection taking place.  Compared to most of the installations today, these networks built in the 1980s weren’t much more advanced than the telegraph system nearly a century before them.

In 1996 the Telecom Act was approved by Congress and there was an incredible amount of activity by newly formed local exchange companies (CLEC).  It seemed that CLECs were popping up overnight in nearly every city in the US and everyone was building new network infrastructure.  The internet was young, and the dot-com companies were driving much of the activity. 

Then, in the early 2000s, the dot-com bubble burst and development of these networks came to a halt.  The next big wave seemed to come a few years later in the form of mobile connectivity, with fiber deployments supporting the wireless sector.  Throughout this period, consolidation of companies was incredible. 

The latest trend seems to be centred around content and big data, with cloud computing driving much of the activity. As 5G deployments continue, connectivity to towers and antennas remains active. 

And last, broadband deployments, connecting consumers to the Internet, is underway at a furious pace.

Bill Cook, Executive Chairman, Bandwidth IG (BIG)

What services does Bandwidth Infrastructure Holdings provide and in which markets?

Bandwidth IG is a dark fiber infrastructure provider.  The company builds and operates new conduit and fiber optic cable infrastructure for data center to data center connectivity.  Currently Bandwidth IG is operating in Greater Atlanta, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Greater Portland. As executive chairman I help to define and implement the company’s strategy, providing leadership and direction to the board and executive management team.

President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Bill, which was signed into law recently, covers bringing affordable and reliable broadband to most of America. What do you think will be the key factors in making that a reality?

I have publicly stated that I believe fixed broadband is an essential service.  If we can get clean running water and electricity to consumers and businesses, then we must also be able to deliver affordable and reliable broadband.  While there are advancements in satellite communications options and wireless density, we must use the necessary resources, public and/or private, to extend broadband to consumers.  Failure to achieve this endeavor is not an option. From a competitive standpoint, companies are always trying to protect their turf.  I believe incumbents, cable providers, and ISPs must invest in their networks to provide the best services available to their customers. If they can’t, or won’t, then communities will cease to exist.  For without this essential service, there won’t be economic development and growth opportunities. I have witnessed this firsthand in my home state of Mississippi.  As I travel around the country, it is amazing to see all the activity toward network broadband expansion.  At some point though, all the low hanging fruit will be picked and that’s were the public private partnerships must come together to use some of the government appropriated funds to extend broadband to some of the less densely populated areas.  Aspects of such a deployment are risky, but we must figure this out.

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