An interview with Mark Adams, Chief Development Officer, 3Red8

Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the digital divide in the United States as many communities lacked the reliable, high-speed broadband connectivity that was necessary to work and learn from home.  Recently, there have been a number of discussions on ways in which to close the divide.  One unique approach is being developed by a new company, 3Red8, which has proposed a nationwide, dark fiber network with benefits ranging from cable landing station connectivity to bringing broadband to rural communities at a scale perhaps never seen before.

SubCableWorld recently had the opportunity to speak with Mark Adams, Chief Development Officer of 3Red8, on this topic.  The following are his comments:

Mark Adams: 3Red8, which stands for “triple redundant figure 8” network architecture, is a brand new terrestrial open-access network that will cross the United States, from coast to coast and border to border.  It’s a hugely ambitious project the likes of which hasn’t really been done for a couple of decades.  

We’re doing this with the aim of connecting strategic points like cable landing stations on each coast, while also enabling all of the things that are happening on our highways – the edge data centers, the smart cars, the drones and everything else that will be monitoring what happens on the roads. 

We’ve broken down the project into phases.  The first phase is in the Southeastern United States.  This will be starting in Ashburn, Virginia, heading down Interstate 95 through North Carolina and going into the future cable station at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to meet any and all of the new submarine cables that are landing there. 

We anticipate that this phase will go live in the 4th quarter of 2023 or the 1st quarter of 2024, depending on how everything goes with construction.  That will be great timing for what we understand will be a bunch of new cables landing in Myrtle Beach in the next several years. 

Our business model is providing backhaul for those submarine cables in the Southeast, while also enabling new services and applications along those routes. 

If you look at the routes, we tend to stick where possible to the interstate highways.  On these highways, depending on the state, we found that there either isn’t any fiber at all or there is some, perhaps owned by the Departments of Transportation (DoTs) in the respective states.  Meanwhile, the federal highway authorities are suggesting to the state DoTs that they start to open up the rights of way for utility access, including Internet dark fiber like 3Red8.  That was one of the components that got us thinking that perhaps we could build an open access network along these new routes and potentially provide some diversity. 

The other thing is, depending on the route, there isn’t a lot of dark fiber for sale.  Some of the legacy carriers don’t want to sell their dark fiber, preferring to keep it for themselves.  We see this as an opportunity.  For example, a hyperscaler might require three paths to get from Point A to Point B for their backhaul or data center interconnect, but there aren’t enough routes where dark fiber is available.  We can create some diverse routes and put in high-fiber-count cables, amounting to hundreds or fibers. 

Right now, we’re purely dark fiber.  Our business model is to sell IRUs to large customers.  As we evolve and come closer to being ready for service, we’ll probably start to offer other services as well, such as wavelengths or point-to-point connections, as the market requires. 

Additionally, we’re super-focused on increasing the connectivity in the communities that we’re going through.  We’re never going to be an Internet service provider direct to the consumer, but we do have a Chief Strategy Impact Officer whose sole job is to work with communities that we’re going through to see if we can help them get grants and work with the middle mile and last mile providers in those underserved communities.  If you look at our map with the network we have planned, you’ll see there are a lot of areas in the middle of the country that are underserved along our routes.  But even in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, there will be opportunities for us to work with local providers to help them get investment.  We see a real opportunity to make a difference and to close the Broadband Gap on the routes that we’re serving.