Return-on-investment calculation involves the current cost of statewide last mile connectivity using commercial leased lines projected over the next 25 years (an average service life for optical fiber) with an annual cost escalation of 2.5 percent. Based on current annual cost of statewide last mile connectivity for member institutions of $2.7M, plus annual backbone circuit costs of $454K, with annual commercial cost escalation over a 25-year period, projected cost to maintain the current environment for this period is $108M. By comparison to the projected cost for a dark fiber infrastructure project of $76.3M, the return-on-investment over a 25-year period is significant. With the additional benefits of potential expansion of service to K12, business incubation, and other statewide economic development initiatives, the return-on-investment could be even higher. Certain opportunity for cost mitigation could occur through the use of existing state-owned dark fiber infrastructure. Utilization of some existing, unused infrastructure could dramatically impact the overall cost of this initiative in a positive manner.
An ancillary benefit to be realized with a project of this scale and scope is the opportunity to engage the State’s skilled trades workforce in an initiative that will advance New Jersey’s technology capacity and innovation capability.
The proposed timeline for a statewide dark fiber initiative involves two years of planning, design, and funding (2019-2021), followed by a four year project construction plan (2021-2025). With a governance structure composed of stakeholders in higher education, K12, NJ Office of Economic Development, NJOIT, and the NJ Secretary of Higher Education, opportunities to leverage this infrastructure for new benefit to science, innovation, business incubation, and business development will exist. This initiative brings statewide value through advancement of technology infrastructure in such a manner that purpose-built networking can support collaborative work among NJ government, education, and business.