Certain Maps are Mission: Impossible

Why the phone and local cable company fiber assets aren’t published anywhere.

Mission: ImpossibleWe’ve all seen Mission Impossible where the highly talented group of spooks led by Tom Cruise has to break into the CIA’s most impenetrable vault. That is child’s play compared to getting fiber maps from the incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) and cable companies (MSOs).

FiberLocator users and prospective clients ask us all the time why we don’t have much data on the phone and cable companies. We get the question enough that we thought it would be helpful to explain some reasons why ILECs and MSOs don’t publish their data. It’s certainly not for lack of want or trying, and it’s not just FiberLocator that gets snubbed. These carriers simply don’t publish their fiber network footprints, and here are some explanations as to why:

  1. They don’t have to. If you’re already the biggest game in town, there’s not much reason for you to open your kimono and show your data. One of the overriding reasons why carriers publish their information in FiberLocator is to be findable when potential customers are looking to make a data transport buying decision. ILECs and MSOs have enough business by virtue of their effective monopolies, so they don’t really have to fight for mindshare and certainly don’t often find themselves competing for business. It’s shifting to be a more competitive landscape, but in the end, the incumbents know there will be enough customers without doing any additional advertising with their exact fiber routes.
  2. They don’t want to. The big carriers often cite not wanting to inform or empower competition as a reason not to make their maps available. Then there is the excuse that it’s a security issue to publish the location of their fiber infrastructure. Even though FiberLocator is a pre-sales tool and not built or advertised to have engineering level detail, they still aren’t biting and rushing to our door to post maps and data. Funny thing about this common mindset among ILECs and MSOs is that if someone really wants to find out where your network is to compete with you, they’re going to find out.
  3. They aren’t compelled to. There is no law or freedom of information act forcing carriers to make their network locations public.
  4. They probably can’t, even if they wanted to. We’ve found that many of the larger incumbents don’t have a single source or management structure governing their network maps. Rather, it’s distributed throughout various regions, some of it digitized, some not. So, the big bad boys of telecom often give well-articulated reasons for not making their maps available when the real answer might be that they wouldn’t know where to even start.

As our FAQs state about the matter , it’s fortunate that FiberLocator does have some lit building information available from certain ILECs and MSOs. It is also possible to find sources of the broadband coverage maps for the various providers to get a sense of their operating areas.

We’ve thought about hiring Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames to steal the fiber maps from the big carriers, but we’ll need a bit more funding to make that effort possible. Until then, our users have told us they’re happy to have the information on the 260 some-odd fiber providers that we have. Rest assured we’ll continue to keep adding to our list of carriers, and you can bet we’ll keep trying to get the big boys to play ball with us too.

“I was highly impressed with the level of detail and analysis as well as the expertise demonstrated in the FiberLocator Connectivity Report. We are using it to help us make a major budget decision and the information and maps were…

Sean Brady, Senior Director
Cushman & Wakefield
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