ISE Interview with FairPoint’s EVP and CTO, John Lunny

C&E/NetDev Ops/GIS/Open-Source NetworksGigabit DeploymentsInstallation & MaintenanceNetwork Reliability

From left to right in the above photo: Eric Proulx (Network Planning Director), Fred Davies (VP Data Center Operations), John Lunny (CTO), Jack Cleary (VP of Information Technology), Marie Samson (VP of Logistics and Technology Finance) and Jim Reid (Chief Information Security Officer)

FairPoint’s Progressive View of Network Transformation

Gigabit Cities
In December 2015, FairPoint began offering gigabit Internet service to select residential customers in greater Portsmouth, New Hampshire, via fiber-to-the-premises and metro Ethernet technologies.

Sharon Vollman, ISE: What are the greatest learnings you can share with other providers who aim to do the same thing? What are the most difficult challenges and solutions?
John Lunny, FairPoint:
Our fiber-to-the-premises gigabit Internet service rollout demonstrates a commitment to leveraging our extensive fiber network and dense metro Ethernet backbone in response to growing customer demand for higher speed services. Portsmouth was the first metro area where FairPoint delivered gigabit Internet service to residential customers, but we have the base Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) infrastructure in place to begin deploying these services to other communities, as well. This initiative also adds to the list of high-speed Internet, Carrier Ethernet, and cloud network options already available to our business customers.

The Portsmouth gigabit Internet rollout reinforces a key learning that we must always understand our markets and tailor deployments accordingly. We acknowledge that customer requirements differ by user group and community, which allows us to provide technology solutions that deliver the best customer value in the most affordable way. We can implement a variety of technology options depending on need, location, and customer demand. These solutions may include traditional single pair ADSL2+ with speeds up to 15 Mbps, to ADSL2+Bonded with speeds up to 25 Mbps. They also include fiber-to-the-curb and fiber-to-the-MDU single pair and bonded VDSL solutions that deliver speeds up to 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps. In addition, bonded copper and fiber-based Carrier Ethernet services will remain a large part of our portfolio for business customers that require dedicated, symmetrical service at guaranteed levels up to multi-10 Gig.

Another factor important to the success of our consumer gigabit Internet service application was our use of GPON technology to remove upstream bandwidth limitations and enable multi-gigabit wireline connectivity in an efficient and cost-effective way. Our GPON-based platform is connected with direct 10 Gig links, over dense wavelength division multiplexer technology, to our Internet peering point-of-presence locations. This approach allows us to quickly and cost effectively light up additional backhaul bandwidth capacity within our central offices to meet consumer demands without having to deploy additional infrastructure in the network.

Sleeplessness

ISE: What are the issues that keep you up at night? What are the challenges facing FairPoint today that excite you?
Lunny:
If you believe that the Internet will be the medium of choice for all future video consumption, then Internet speeds matter. Wireline service providers like FairPoint, whose original networks were built for voice communications, must ensure they have the supporting technology infrastructure in place to deliver increasingly competitive and reliable high-speed Internet service.

To address this challenge, we’ve invested in the expansion of our distribution fiber network to bring high-capacity, fiber-based solutions closer to our customers’ homes and businesses and in our core network. We already have the largest and most ubiquitous fiber-based Ethernet backbone in northern New England, with more than 17,000 route miles of fiber across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Another important area of focus for FairPoint is maintaining and advancing our capabilities in the business segment. We’re currently viewed in our market as the most capable provider of large, complex, multi-product, multi-location enterprise business and wholesale service solutions. We have the products, network assets, skill sets, and geographic scope needed to provide complete business solutions for the largest business and public sector customers in our serving area. We will continue to develop and deploy competitive and secure technology solutions that business customers see as relevant. We keep an eye on the industry and stay in constant communication with our customers. Although our process is very deliberate, we’re fast to deploy new services once we prove their value and are ensured a return on our investments.

Lunny_Fig1_052016

Network Transformation

ISE: We hear a lot about network transformation. How does that differ from network evolution? How is FairPoint transforming its network today? What will that mean in 2020?
Lunny:
To FairPoint, network transformation is a combination of both network and organizational transformation. That’s why we created a Technology organization that merged Information Technology, Network Architecture, Engineering, and Data Center Operations into 1 team. This alignment allows us to better solve engineering problems and provide customer solutions from traditional Layer 1, 2, and 3 products up through Layer 7 application and server-based products and services. This combination of skill sets has allowed us to more efficiently and effectively create a single pane of glass architecture to enable network visibility of both our internal enterprise network and external customer-facing infrastructure — right down to customer-managed router and broadband modem visibility. This combination has also allowed us to integrate our highly capable internal cyber security teams and tools to branch out into customer-facing networks, products, and services. Network visibility and proactive monitoring are key areas of focus for FairPoint’s Technology organization.

At one time, telecommunications companies like FairPoint offered mostly traditional Layer 1, PTP products, such as DS1s, DS3s, and SONET; a fixed set of voice products like POTS, Centrex, and PRI; and data transport services like Frame Relay and ATM. Over the past several years, FairPoint has begun rolling out the advanced products and services that our customers require for the future, beginning with a full suite of Carrier Ethernet services followed by Ethernet Cellular backhaul, managed LAN services, Hosted PBX, SIP Trunking, and data center colocation and disaster recovery services. Next up will be the formal rollout of cloud contact center applications for VoIP products, managed WiFi, as well as cloud and server-based products such as IaaS, as well as fully managed cyber security products.

Looking forward to 2020, we believe that customer environments will continue to increase in complexity, and that information and cyber security requirements will continue to grow. This provides companies like FairPoint a great opportunity to provide advanced support and managed services for business customers.

ISE: Tell readers about your style of leadership and teamwork.
Lunny: I would characterize my leadership and communication style as fairly direct, and have found that this works really well with Technical teams. You have to build an environment of mutual respect, trust, and accountability. Managing and developing strong internal and external peer relationships are also critically important at every level in the organization, and that is something that we have spent a lot of time and effort on over the past couple of years.

ISE: What is the secret sauce to get everyone pulling in the same direction?
Lunny: Communication is the key. You need to communicate objectives clearly, and then allow open and candid debate around the objective and the tactics required to successfully meet the objective. This requires trust as folks need to feel that they can push back or offer alternative ideas. The best idea ultimately needs to win out regardless of where it came from, and then it’s simply a matter of holding ourselves and our peers accountable for delivering.

Network Reliability

ISE: Talk about the challenges and successes you’ve had in maintaining reliability throughout your footprint. Any new tools or tactics you are using that others can learn from? What’s changed in terms of network reliability in the last year?
Lunny: In my view, network reliability has 3 key components: redundant and resilient infrastructure, network visibility, and cybersecurity operations. To maintain and improve network reliability is an ongoing effort that requires continual investment.

We’ve spent considerable time and money to ensure FairPoint offers physical diversity: diverse fiber routes, redundant equipment, physical backup for applications, and more. Our goal is to have a self-healing network so there is no noticeable impact to our customers under circumstances when a fiber route may go down or if a router chassis were to fail.

In 2015, we worked to further enhance our network configurations to add additional layers of redundancy for our customers. For example, these projects added equipment and logical redundancy for our Dedicated Internet business services. We pride ourselves in being able to deliver the highest level of network resiliency, and will continue to invest in infrastructure and technology to strengthen our network further.

Secondly, we recently deployed our Single Pane of Glass initiative, and are adding new tools and enhancing existing tools that increase our ability to see what is going on within our network up through the application layer. We are able to correlate alarms to help pinpoint what is happening and proactively identify a problem
or potential problem before it ever impacts a customer. Our goal is to be able to pick up the phone and call our customers before they know there is an issue. We’re also giving our customers more self-service tools, like an enhanced managed services portal, so they can monitor their own network usage and performance 24/7.

The third phase for FairPoint is to continue to invest in developing our cyber security operations and tools, and beginning to offer our customers new services that build on our internal expertise and skill sets to help protect them from things like Malware, Phishing attempts, and Distributed Denial of Service attacks. We expect to continue to make significant progress in this area in the coming year.

IoT and The Network
The IoT has the potential to connect 212 billion devices to the Internet by 2020. Goldman Sachs’ recent research identifies 5 key verticals of adoption for IoT: Connected Wearable Devices, Connected Cars, Connected Homes, Connected Cities, and Industrial Internet.

ISE: What does the growth of the IoT mean for you and your teams? Does it change your network strategy and roadmap, and if so, how?
Lunny: The Internet of Things will continue to drive increased bandwidth utilization. We also expect an increased need for managed network and cybersecurity services as the volume of connected business, personal, and home devices expand.

For telecom providers, this expansion will create demand to help manage these connected devices for customers that don’t have the technical capacity or time to do so themselves. In particular, we see an opportunity to help small businesses that don’t have the in-house knowledge to manage the complex interconnection of these technologies.

Another opportunity is the continued expansion of data center and cloud-based services. Data center colocation services provide customers with data center space without requiring them to invest capital for new construction and infrastructure, and can be an essential part of a comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery strategy. Telecom companies like FairPoint have an inherent advantage over traditional stand-alone data center providers. FairPoint has the ability to repurpose large portions of our existing, secure, and centrally-located central offices into data center space at a much lower cost than building new facilities. Plus, we can package data center and disaster recovery services with on-network connectivity to the largest fiber-based carrier Ethernet network in northern New England.

Rural Challenges
According to the latest International Telecom Union ICT Facts and Figures, 20% of households in developed countries and as much as 66% of households in developing countries do not have Internet access, with more than 4 billion people from developing countries remaining offline. We are in an Internet era, yet availability of ubiquitous and affordable broadband service remains an elusive goal in many rural locations.

ISE: What is FairPoint doing about this?
Lunny: The challenge for all service providers who choose to deliver broadband to areas outside urban and suburban areas is high deployment cost versus limited revenue opportunity. We are viewing this as an opportunity to trial different technology solutions. We can’t use the same fiber and remote terminal deployment models that we typically would use in urban or suburban communities.

So, service providers have to be creative. For example, an effective approach could be deploying small, pole-mount remote terminals with bonded ADSL that use bonded copper VDSL backhaul technologies instead of building out new fiber. Or, as the cost of microwave technology decreases, we may consider putting microwave points of presence on telephone poles in locations where there is a clear line of site, allowing us to bypass the need to build fiber out to low population density areas.

Despite the clear business challenges, FairPoint believes it has the capability to deliver broadband to rural areas and we will work creatively to do it in the most cost-effective way possible.

About Sharon Vollman

Sharon Vollman is Senior Vice President, Editorial Director of ISE magazine. She oversees all editorial processes and staff for ISE magazine, the ISE e-newsletter,ise.mediaquest.co, and leads the educational content development for ISE EXPO and several events. Vollman has created educational partnerships with the major communications and entertainment providers including AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier Communications and Cincinnati Bell. She has covered the telecom industry since 1996, when she joined OSP magazine as editor. Prior to that she worked in advertising with Ogilvy & Mather and CME. Vollman has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/advertising from the University of Iowa.