It is often said that hindsight is 20/20. That’s because many hard-learned lessons are ultimately about not taking things for granted. For example, we’re used to ISP monopolies, so we make a lot of assumptions about internet access—who can provide it, speeds and uptime to expect, and reasonable costs to pay.
That thinking limits our choices, and we wind up relinquishing control over our internet infrastructure, then dealing with ever-increasing bills. But Iowa businesses are in a good position to deal with that!
Here’s what you need to know about fiber internet—and about keeping you in control of your fundamental network infrastructure.
What Is Fiber Internet for Businesses?
The technology behind fiber internet is remarkably straightforward. Older networking technology was based on sending data in the form of electrical signals along copper wires. Fiber networks, on the other hand, send data as light signals along wires made of a material called fiber optic.
That’s usually a type of glass or plastic. You’ve definitely seen it before, in those fiber optic lamps, with thin, grass-like threads that have light shining out of their ends—they were all the rage in the nineties.
If fiber optic technology is so old, how come it’s not everywhere? Early on, telecom companies built much of their internet access infrastructure—especially in the “last mile,” the part closest to customer premises—over copper wires because the cables were already in place. They were used for telephone landlines, cable television, or various other telecom technologies.
This was hardly ideal: copper wires aren’t very good long-distance signal carriers. They aren’t very reliable and can’t carry too much data over long distances—they just weren’t built for that. But they were already there, so why not?
Fiber Optic: Built for Performance
Unlike copper, fiber optic is very well-suited for data traffic. It’s specifically built for transfer speed and reliability.
The way data is delivered—in the form of light—is less susceptible to interference, which allows for higher speed. The physical properties of the material also make fiber optic cables more reliable and easier to troubleshoot when they do fail, enabling better uptime and shorter incident response times.
It’s no free lunch, of course. Telecom companies have been burying landline cables all over Iowa for a hundred years, but fiber is a more recent development. So depending on where you are in the state, getting a fiber uplink can involve an upfront investment and install wait times (it is Iowa after all…it’s tough to bury infrastructure in the winter).
Fiber and Flexibility
Fiber links are faster and more reliable, it’s true, but many Iowa businesses choose fiber internet for entirely different reasons; the speed and reliability are just a bonus.
The decreasing cost of fiber links has enabled many companies to operate their own last-mile fiber infrastructure. This, in turn, has allowed them to work around ISP monopolies, reducing the cost associated with networking and business traffic growth, and enabling faster and more efficient infrastructure development.
Cost and Development Control with Private Last-mile Fiber
For residential properties, much of the last-mile infrastructure is usually owned and managed by the ISP. But ISPs can’t easily charge private users upfront for things installed outside their property. Thus, many large ISPs were reluctant to keep up with technological development—like fiber—so performance has lagged behind what the market can offer.
When they did give in, they often transferred infrastructure development costs to their customers, in the form of increased subscription costs, and added tight vendor lock-in provisions to ensure customers don’t leave before the investment is recovered. And, since subscribers aren’t privy to their ISPs’ growth plans, subscription cost increases were inherently unpredictable.
In our 120 year history in Jesup, Iowa, Heartland Technology has committed to updating and maintaining our infrastructure, without overcharging customers and while keeping our cooperative company structure.
Businesses in Iowa are discovering that they can work with a local provider to install their own last-mile infrastructure. Instead of large ISPs, businesses can choose to work with local providers like Heartland Technology Data Center (HTDC) for internet access.
We can install last-mile fiber in Waterloo, connect your business to the larger Iowa fiber infrastructure, help control costs, avoid large ISP fine-print contracts, and offer the best local customer service. This setup gives you control over infrastructure planning. It ensures that infrastructure investment and development plans align with your growth plans, not the ISP’s, and you know exactly what development costs you will have in the long run.
Security and Performance Management with Private Fiber Networks
Having your own fiber infrastructure comes with an easily-overlooked perk: you are its sole operator, and you can extend it to cover every aspect of wide-area networking, not just local internet access.
This is what we call a private fiber network. Operating a private fiber network offers significant performance and security guarantees.
In terms of performance, since you are the sole operator of the network, its entire capacity is yours, too—unlike large ISP networks, where most of the bandwidth is shared among as many users as possible.
You get exactly what you pay for, and you get it all the time, without any throttling or data caps. If you need better performance, or you need coverage in a new area, you can get it when you need it, as fast as you need it.
In terms of security, a private network can offer significant confidentiality guarantees, as you have full control over the data path. This is especially useful for companies that self-host their services, as they can have private, secure connections right to the data center where their services, files, and backups are hosted.
It’s also useful to consider physical proximity and location, especially if you need a secure connection to a data center now or in the future. Some of the security claims that providers make can be verified by specific audits, such as SOC2, so you don’t have to take their word for it!
Choosing the Right Fiber Internet Partner
As we said, this is no free lunch—and since you’re paying for it, you have every right to be picky! If you choose to operate your own fiber infrastructure, you get to make your own decisions about installation and maintenance.
If you want to leverage a wider choice of service providers and the higher performance that fiber links enable, it’s important to choose a reliable partner for installation and maintenance. A history of dedicated customer service, effective incident and disaster planning, and a good incident response team are critical to ensuring the reliable operation of your infrastructure.
Need reliable fiber internet for your business in Iowa? Come tour our local facility!