Cord cutting seems a no-brainer when it comes to saving money, as the cost for the full slate of cable options has become, if not exorbitant, then at least distressingly high. Couple this with the upcoming debut of cable-free HBO and Showtime (among others) and the continuing rise of Netflix, and the prospect of a significant percentage of today’s cable customers abandoning their subscriptions in the near future is looking more and more likely. Of course, once the cord is cut, there’s only one way to receive the full advantage of OOT service: a high-speed Internet connection, which big telecom companies like AT&T and Time Warner, who today have a near-monopoly on broadband delivery, are looking to monetize to the nth degree. It sounds like a no-win situation for the consumer: pay if you keep cable, or pay if you cut the cord.

But perhaps “dark” fiber is the answer. Small companies, like Bel Air Internet, based in southern California, are now offering less-expensive alternatives to the big telecoms. Using the dark fiber lines that once served only corporate clients, Bel Air has created a fiber and wireless network that reaches 30,000 customers in various high-density areas of its namesake city. Mostly covering apartment buildings, condominiums, hotels, and student housing, Bel Air guarantees 10 MB network speeds, day or night, no matter how many other people are online, for less than $40 per month, a savings of nearly $10 compared to Time Warner. Other similar services are popping up around the country, and with Google Fiber continuing its advance and the federal government encouraging municipalities to invest in their own broadband systems, serious competition could be coming to this formerly locked-down space.

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