As a turnkey partner, Network Connex empowers a dark fiber provider to efficiently deploy a new regional fiber route.

To complete a new route that traverses through major metros in Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama a dark fiber provider relied upon turnkey planning and deployment services from Network Connex to optimize the construction of a new, direct route between several important landing stations in the Southeast.


Hyperscale cloud providers and network carriers are under pressure to provide the high-bandwidth, low-latency connections their customers need to get the most from AI and machine learning technologies. In response they’re leveraging dark fiber networks as an alternative to purchasing lit strands from carriers and by 2032 the global dark fiber market is projected to rise to $20.95 billion USD.

CIPs Blue Ridge Run Network traverses beautiful but challenging terrain in the Southeast US

Bryan McCombs of Critical Infrastructure Partners (CIP), agrees there is a staggering demand for it, with more underground fiber being put into the ground now than ever before. “Dark fiber is the ideal solution for dealing with massive amounts of data that has to traverse between two or more sites,” he says. “It’s the absolute gold standard for delivering the low-latency solutions hyperscalers and carriers need.”

CIP is building The Blue Ridge Run, a 767-mile fiber-optic route running from Northern Virginia to Huntsville, Alabama to serve telecom and hyperscale providers as well as national security agencies in the region. Network Connex was called in to support their team with feasibility studies, fiber engineering, permitting services, and construction for this crucial connectivity project in the Southeastern United States.


While dark fiber may be the optimal choice for transporting the complex, intensive dataloads of AI and machine learning innovations, there are barriers to delivering that value. For dark fiber providers, these include designing intelligent and diverse fiber routes for data to travel, dealing with rocky terrains and gaining right of way (ROW) permissions to pass through properties owned by others.

Some of the most difficult factors in making the site-to-site connections needed for data transmission are planning the route with and alongside existing fiber runs and successfully securing ROW permits in coordination with owners and municipalities.

Where CIP needs to deploy their new route, the terrain was largely solid rock, which makes underground fiber construction very expensive, labor-intensive, and time consuming. There are currently a limited number of operators and heavy equipment to work in that medium.


Network Connex teams dove into the project during the planning phase to conduct a feasibility study that uncovered how the existing network infrastructure has been laid out in the targeted geographic area, and the parties involved in granting ROW access where the route was proposed. This work gathered important information that empowered CIP to design a route that minimized permit applications and identified the shortest logical route to build. Smart planning and design was the best way to safeguard their capital outlay and minimize project implementation time.

Once construction began, the Network Connex team deployed a rare specialty tool to install conduit systems in the hard-rock environments, like the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. As an all-terrain directional drill, the AT120 features the largest inner rod produced to date and is able to bore through all types of ground material to install fiber conduit all along the route. Partnering with Network Connex was key to securing outside plant construction expertise and specialized equipment because this machine is one of only a few on the East coast.

Reels of cable and conduit prepped at a construction site for laying underground fiber network



As the dark fiber provider expanded its commercial network throughout the Southeastern U.S., Network Connex was tasked with providing full turnkey services, including feasibility studies, fiber engineering, permitting services, and OSP construction.


CIP relied on Network Connex as a trusted partner to help them get to market faster with the fiber bandwidth their customers need. “For us, Network Connex conducts feasibility studies to identify roadblocks and advises how to mitigate them. From there, they help us with all aspects of a project, from the engineering and permitting process to land use and the civil construction services to make it happen,” said McCombs. “Their soup-to-nuts approach is a rare thing to find in this industry.”


A hyperscale data center handles the massive load required by AI and machine learning technologies