Middle Mile Through San Ildefonso

In the agenda for the County Council meeting on March 5, 2024 item 10 A is Approval of Providing Grant Matching Funds for San Ildefonso Services’ Connect New Mexico Grant Application in the Amount of $1,800,000 with a Total Project Amount of $6,000,000 for a New Middle Mile Fiber Optic Line Connecting White Rock to Pojoaque. I wrote the following letter to the County Council asking that they approve the funds.


Dear Counselors:

Please support Agenda item 10 A, “Approval of Providing Grant Matching Funds for San Ildefonso Services’ Connect New Mexico Grant Application …” at your meeting on Tuesday March 5. If the application succeeds, it will provide a middle mile internet connection that Los Alamos County has sought for many years.

The County wide failure of most telecommunication service in December of 2022 demonstrated that a utility essential for safety is precariously fragile. That fragility is but one symptom of the failure of government at all levels to respond appropriately to changing telecommunication technology and business models. Fortunately Council has directed Staff to address that failure with the “Community Broadband Network” (CBN) project.

Lessons from December 2022 County Wide Telecom Failure

I took two lessons specifically about our middle mile status from the 2022 failure:

  1. The telecom businesses in the county should have redundant connections off of the hill for reliability and safety.
  2. The failure showed that most internet service providers (ISPs) and other telecoms here use the Lumen link to get off of the hill. The claim, which I heard for many years, that LA County needed a middle mile solution before considering a CBN was faulty. Our CBN can connect to the internet (unreliably) through the same Lumen link that the incumbent ISPs use.

Questions about the San Ildefonso Project

While I hope that you pass a motion to support the grant application, I found the agenda item a bit thin. I hope that in your discussion of the item Staff can fill in more detail. Here are some questions that occurred to me:

  1. What would Los Alamos County get? Will San Ildefonso operate and maintain 24 strands for us for 20 years for a one time payment of $4.2M?
  2. I hope that we will use the link for our CBN. What else would we use the link for? Could we lease capacity to the incumbent ISPs? Are such leases allowed by REDINET? Would they be allowed by the agreement with San Ildefonso? Or does San Ildefonso itself plan to lease to those entities?
  3. I hope that soon we will hear about a proposed contract for building a CBN project to offer fiber to the premises throughout the County. If a CBN fails to materialize what could we salvage from our $4.2M investment in a fiber link to Pojoaque?
  4. What is the capacity of the link to REDINET that the project will provide? After Googling just now, I think 24 strands would provide 2.4 terabits per second with off the shelf technology and much more with anticipated technology. How much traffic can REDINET handle?
  5. Is the possibility that in the future we may need to upgrade the technology to increase capacity part of the discussions with San Ildefonso?
  6. Is LANL/DOE going to use any part of the bundle of 144 fiber strands?
  7. Will we or San Ildefonso or DOE be able to contract with other telecom providers to use the new fiber link as back-up to prevent a failure like December 2022?

Thanks to each of you for serving on the County Council,

Andrew M. Fraser

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