In 1995, Bob Metclafe predicted that consumer demand for Internet bandwidth would exceed available network capacities to deliver content within a year, causing so-called giga-lapses, “brownouts” of interrupted service, or a full-scale Internet crash. Metcalfe recanted his hypothesis a year later, but the concept of an exaflood—the lack of available bandwidth to handle total global Internet user demand—has seen a recent resurgence as online gaming, video streaming, and other high-bandwidth applications have become de rigeur expectations of the Web experience for the casual user.

Nowhere is that more evident than in multifamily apartment communities. From Facebooking Gen Yers to aging-in-place Boomers who want to video chat with their grandchildren, the broadband hunger among residents seems insatiable. Whether existing infrastructure is sizable enough to handle the data stream is up for debate, but fiber-optic network installers, including Cary, N.C.-based Connexion Technologies, are eager to get their systems—which they promise will ease the exaflood crisis—into multifamily buildings across the country.

Connexion executive vice president of sales and marketing Carter Steg sat down with Multifamily Executive this week to talk about the emergence of fiber broadband in multifamily.

MFE: So how real is the whole exaflood bandwidth crisis?
STEG: If you look to the past to predict the future, you can look back to the amount of bandwidth we were consuming just over a decade ago: The same amount of bandwidth that the entire Internet generated in 1995 is projected to be the average usage of about only 20 homes within the next five years. That’s a drastic increase. 

MFE: Are fiber optic networks able to handle all of that demand?
STEG: All multifamily telecommunication needs can be delivered over a fiber optic structure, including 15 megabites per second minimum Internet speed; 150 digital TV channels; and the maximum HD available. We allow multiple providers, including both satellite and traditional cable companies, to provide services on our infrastructure. There are currently 22 different providers that we offer across our 20-state market, so there are obviously plenty of people we haven’t partnered up with yet, but that’s not because the network cannot handle them. There’s nothing we cannot carry that someone could conversely carry on a copper network.

MFE: How deep is fiber optic penetration in the multifamily space?
STEG: We are one of the larger providers and the largest private provider of fiber-to-the-home infrastructure, and we have just over 150 multifamily properties. 

MFE: What has been the challenge in multifamily adoption?
STEG: We’ve only been targeting the entire market for less than a year. Up until the recent advent of clear curve type technologies, we had not been realistically able to go out and retrofit apartment communities—we were only able to offer infrastructure installs in new communities during the construction and development process. 

MFE: Tell us about your services.
STEG: We install the network, manage the network, and manage the service providers to meet high service standard levels. Our business model works like a toll road: The service providers pay a toll to come down our infrastructure—there’s no capital requirement from the multifamily owner for that infrastructure and no operations fee. We also offer ancillary income opportunities. At times, owners will opt to purchase services at a bulk rate and include it in rent as an amenity to attract residents.  

MFE: How long does a retrofit take?
STEG: For a 250-unit property, it takes about six weeks of construction work on-site, but there is often a time impact from getting the long-haul fiber optic provider to provide local access to the site. In general, it takes from 90 days to 120 days to get a community live. 

MFE: Where does IPTV fit into the fiber optic picture?
STEG: We are delivering Direct TV over IP now, and we believe the quality is superior. We are all still waiting on the advanced applications that IPTV promises from the service providers. I don’t think those are very far behind, and we certainly have the bandwidth available to accommodate it.