At Underline, we think continuously about the role of critical infrastructure in the health and functioning of society. As we’ve stated previously, U.S. communities are on divergent trajectories: some experience job creation, population growth, and increasing wealth per capita, but for others, opportunity is stunted with crumbling infrastructure, shrinking workforces, high unemployment, and lower educational attainment.
The state and availability of critical infrastructure is the most addressable difference between communities on these opposing pathways. Underline exists to deliver intelligent infrastructure—built on a foundation of open access fiber—with an ethos of community partnership and in the spirit of social justice.
As an intelligent community infrastructure platform, Underline has a full service solution to deliver these essential information networks for communities.
But what exactly does full service solution mean? Let’s break it down.
Underline designs, finances, recruits service providers for, constructs, and operates neutral open access fiber networks.
Through data science, network architecture reviews, and on-the-ground conversations, Underline designs and engineers open access networks specific to the needs and priorities of each community. Together with our partners, we create detailed designs, manage the permitting process, and submit as-builts to facilitate network construction and operation within the parameters of the local laws.
As part of the data analysis process, Underline deploys vehicle based LiDAR collection technology to create a 3-D model of the build area, accurate to within two centimeters. Network optimization algorithms then generate millions of potential network scenarios to find the right solution at the most efficient cost, and this data informs the unique in-depth financial model.
At the same time, conversations with elected officials, business leaders, residents, and other stakeholders ensure consistent alignment with current and future community needs, and determine best practices for permitting, pole attachments, and collaborative build options.
The Underline model is fully-funded and does not require any capital or investment from the community. It’s what’s called a “non-procurement” model—no need to issue government bonds, divert funds from other areas of the budget, increase taxes, or rely on subscriber installation fees. To fund our networks, we work with institutional investors looking for long-term, stable returns, and with an interest in the underlying social purpose of bringing intelligent infrastructure to U.S. communities.
Service Provider Recruitment & Marketplace
The core attribute of open access networks is the separation of physical infrastructure from the provision of services and content. This approach represents a sharp diversion from the vertically integrated model of the monopolistic incumbent ISPs who own their infrastructure and have monopoly rights to deliver content and services across it.
In the open access model, the network infrastructure is neutrally owned and operated by an entity that does not provide service. In this role, Underline recruits service providers to the network, and constructs a competitive marketplace through a consumer-facing software platform.
This marketplace for services—only possible on a software-defined, open access network—offers unheard of choice and price for value to consumers across internet, TV, telehealth, entertainment, 5G, smart city applications, and other services. The open access model also lowers barriers to entry for service providers who do not have to build their own infrastructure, and it ends infrastructure overbuild in communities since all service providers can utilize the same shared network infrastructure.
Underline networks are based on a Fiber-to-the-Edge, Active Ethernet, Software Defined Network (SDN) design. To deliver these open access networks, we leverage the experience, knowledge, and success track record of the nation's largest and industry leading Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) firms. Underline specializes in managing this entire process—with adherence to strict safety protocols, coupled with metric-driven workforce management processes and procedures to provide real-time production visibility and accountability.
Traditionally, network infrastructure projects of this scope and size require a vast organization of service-based personnel to facilitate a variety of tasks—from scheduling a customer's install to troubleshooting, and dealing with network outages. With the software defined networking approach, much of this work can occur virtually—reducing the need to ramp-up and scale human capital teams. This approach also means that customers have more control over their service than ever before. For example, an Underline customer can switch service providers virtually with the click of a button—compared to the industry norm of calling customer service, braving long hold times, and then waiting for a technician to travel out to facilitate the switch in-person. This improves efficiency across the board—reducing wait-times and disruption for consumers, and eliminating large central expenditure.
For the communities that want to own this critical infrastructure down the line, we provide the option—at the outset of every project—for community purchase. Once the network is built, fully-stabilized, and de-risked, communities can choose to raise funds or allocate budget to buy the infrastructure.