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Startup Space Winner TRAXyL CEO Finds the Road to Connectivity

May 2020 | By Jeffrey Hill | Via Satellite

Somewhere out in rural America, an unhelpful internet service provider representative is making long drives to neighborhoods he will never connect, completely unaware that he may have inspired the catalyst for a company that solves the digital divide in the United States.

 

TRAXyL is not technically a satellite or New Space entrant, but CEO Daniel Turner’s pitch was so strong and so persuasive that he won the grand prize at the 4th annual Startup Space entrepreneur pitch contest at SATELLITE 2020. Tuner showcased a fiber deployment solution and business model that derives extreme cost savings by utilizing existing infrastructure — America’s highways. The goal is to bring high-speed connectivity to millions of new municipalities, small businesses, hospitals, school campuses, event complexes, and government and military facilities. Substitute fiber connectivity for books and you come out with the original pitch that Jeff Bezos used to launch Amazon. It’s all about the existing infrastructure.

TRAXyL installs optical fiber lines along existing roadways without digging deep trenches. The company’s patented driverless FiberTRAXtor vehicle “paints” a fiber line on the surface of the road, and then covers and protects the line with the company’s FiberTRAX resin. TRAXyL is targeting the last-mile customer segment, for which installations can be 10 times more expensive than most long-haul or backhaul segments due to the hazards and permitting fees involved, as well as the time-consuming design and installation processes.

Via Satellite interviewed Turner following his Startup Space victory. An extended version of this interview will also be featured on a future episode of the On Orbit podcast.

VIA SATELLITE: Congratulations on winning Startup Space! The judges were very impressed. Can you expand upon the story you told during your pitch about why and how TRAXyL was started?

Turner: TRAXyL wouldn’t have started if my dad never made a phone call to an ISP that will remain nameless. He lives out in a rural neighborhood and he had been unhappy with the quality and speed of his internet service for some time. This ISP representative answered the call and drove all the way out to my dad’s house and we asked him if he could connect my dad’s neighborhood with optical fiber. This rep laughed and rattled off a list of excuses of why he couldn’t help my dad. “You’ll never get service out here,” he says. “It’s too expensive to trench. There aren’t any telephone poles in your neighborhood. There aren’t enough people to justify bringing connectivity here. And, the county you’re in won’t let us trench.”

As he drove away, I thought about how interesting it was that this rep could drive a car all the way out to my dad’s house because of the existing infrastructure, but couldn’t run a line to connect his neighborhood. If we have this infrastructure in place for driving, why can’t we piggyback off of that same infrastructure to provide connectivity to rural areas?

VIA SATELLITE: How did you initially set out to solve this problem using the existing infrastructure?

Turner: My co-founder [Stephen Carter] and I literally started on our hands and feet. We first thought to paint a fiber line on the road ourselves. We were laying the fiber and placing the coating by hand. We went through several pairs of gloves and kneepads trying to connect our initial pilot sites. We had developed the coating, the FiberTRAX, and then realized that we needed another invention to be able to deploy the fiber line in a more automated way. I spent a whole winter season in my dad’s garage, building this machine from scratch, going through several iterations and prototypes before arriving at the FiberTRAXtor.

VIA SATELLITE: How does the FiberTRAXtor vehicle work?

Turner: Essentially, what we’ve invented is this automated machine that “paints” an optical fiber connection between two points. It uses highly durable resins to bond a low-profile fiber cable down directly on pavement. The only prep we’re doing is making sure there’s no loose debris in front of the line. If you have good-looking, solid pavement, then we can essentially paint a line down that pavement with optical fiber. We see it as a low-cost, quick-to-deploy method of installing fiber optic cable and bringing high-speed connectivity to places where it wasn’t possible to do so before.

I went through many components during its development. I spent a lot of time learning how to program the vehicle’s microcontroller, the resin and fiber output system. We had to learn how to shape and cure the resin in the right way, and how to unspool the cable. It was quite the effort. I think being armed with that knowledge and understanding is going to go a long way in building the next commercial prototype that we currently have going on right now.

VIA SATELLITE: So, the FiberTRAXtor and FiberTRAX are your own, original, in-house inventions?

Turner: We have two patents issued. One patent covers the machine that lays out the fiber and FiberTRAX, and the other covers the method of which we lay the fiber using the FiberTRAX resin. The materials for the resin itself are sourced from a combination of other suppliers.

VIA SATELLITE: At Startup Space, you told the judges that TRAXyL could be a game-changer in bridging the digital divide and deploying 5G infrastructure. As the ISP rep told your father, deploying fiber is too expensive to justify for areas with low population density. How are you going to bring fiber costs down low enough to justify widespread deployment?

Turner: Currently, there are only a few ways you can install fiber: underwater, underground, or strung up on utility poles. The cables themselves are pretty fragile. The fiber optic line is made of glass. You have to protect that fiber, so you have to wrap it in armor and steel and then bury it, or string it up on utility poles in order to protect it as best as you can.

Over the course of the past few years, deployers have found that you don’t have to bury the fiber as deep as previously thought. They’ve developed what’s called “micro-trenching techniques.” But, they’re still placing the fiber under the ground. The cost of digging into the ground and placing fiber, and dealing with the utilities involved is still prohibitively expensive in a lot of cases.

We took a look at this and the questions we asked were: Why don’t we just place the fiber directly on the road in a protective manner that avoids all the other utilities? And, what’s the fastest and most efficient way to deploy this fiber on the road and make it durable enough to provide economic value? We think we’ve come up with answers to these questions in a solution that works really well.

VIA SATELLITE: 5G networks require some sort of fiber component. Is TRAXyL purely a rural deployment solution, or is FiberTRAX durable enough for dense, urban areas that are looking at 5G?

Turner: TRAXyL started out as purely a rural broadband connectivity company. But, since then, we’ve learned that there is just as much demand for fiber infrastructure in dense, urban areas, where it’s much, much more expensive to deploy due to all the utilities and regulations you have to deal with. We’ve developed solutions and services to meet the needs of potential customers in both environments. FiberTRAX is durable enough to still provide cost-savings to deployers in urban areas, even with the cost of regular maintenance.

VIA SATELLITE: When you first set out with the FiberTRAXtor and the FiberTRAX resin, how did your initial customers react?

Turner: It was a steep learning curve in trying to find our customer niche and establishing a foothold in the market. We started talking to rural municipal and county governments and hundreds of different types of businesses, ISPs, fiber installers. Ultimately, we found our first major customer with the U.S. military. We won a contract with the U.S. Army to build a machine for them, which is what we’re currently working on now. We think there are a lot of potential use cases to bring connectivity onto bases — to run gate control, set up security cameras, or connect different buildings on a base. The Army was interested in what we were doing and we were able to get a grant through the Rapid Innovation Fund to finance the development of our next machine.

CAPTION: 615 feet of FiberTRAX provides fiber connectivity to sports facilities at a high school in Bealeton, Virginia.

 

VIA SATELLITE: What about investors? Did they react as strongly as the Startup Space judges?

Turner: We’re actually taking a different route when it comes to financing. We bootstrapped our R&D with our own money. Afterward, we received a $225,000 R&D grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) SBIR Phase 1 and we applied for the second phase of funding in February. So, we’re set on R&D costs.

We’ve talked to hundreds of investors and we did go through several incubator and accelerator programs such as the Halcyon Incubator in D.C., the Social Impact Incubator, DreamIt, and the MassChallenge Texas Accelerator where we ended up winning first place and a $150,000 prize. There were different stages of our growth when we wanted to raise some money to get moving, but we found that, because we have enough in grant support and we’re signing contracts and making progress, we’re able to fund the project ourselves at the moment. We can lock down most of the risk by doing the front-end development ourselves, backed by our military funding. That said, we have been able to network with a lot of private investors throughout this process, so we do have options to raise capital if we need to. Some of the investors are actively providing guidance, as well.

VIA SATELLITE: You’re not technically a satellite company, but you won a pitch competition at a satellite event. Are you competing with the last mile constellations like Starlink and the rural/remote-focused Geospatial (GEO) operators, or is your technology complementary to what they’re doing?

Turner: TRAXyL is absolutely complementary to what the satellite industry is doing. In a 5G world, where all of the networks are hybrid, TRAXyL can actually benefit the satellite industry. As you said, 5G can’t work without a fiber component. We can provide the fiber element as a partner at low cost. We also had some very productive conversations at SATELLITE 2020 with operators and launch providers who want to bring fiber to their remote facilities.

Considering what the future of connectivity looks like, I think we have to get past the mindset of fiber versus satellite and vice-versa. The future is one big hybrid network. Satellite, cellular, and fiber all work together to build the same wireless network. This is what 5G should look like, unless you want small cells and terminals on every building and telephone pole, and you want to pay all of those utilities and building owners for the access to the infrastructure.

VIA SATELLITE: Considering that the FiberTRAXtor is quick-deploy and automated, do you feel that what you’re doing could be useful in the scenario we’re currently facing with COVID-19?

Turner: Absolutely. We feel that we can make a significant social impact with what we’re doing. It’s not just rural connectivity, but also telehealth and education. COVID-19 isn’t going to just impact the cities. It’s going to be in rural communities, as well. As long as there are roads, we can quickly and cheaply deploy the fiber needed to enable telehealth services and connect remote health facilities. We’re not just about bringing faster internet to my dad, but connectivity to people who need it most.

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The Automated Fiber-Planting Tractor that won Startup Space

2020 | On Orbit Podcast by Via Satellite, listen on SoundCloud

On Orbit caught up with Startup Space-winner Daniel Turner, CEO and Co-Founder of TRAXyL. In this episode, Daniel shared the company’s origins, how he and his partner came up with the idea of using an automated tractor, and how technologies like FiberTRAXtor can benefit the satellite and space sectors and, hopefully the deployment of 5G wireless. 

This is an extended version of an interview that was featured in the May edition of Via Satellite. 

There have been only a handful of places fit for fiber installation — underwater, underground, or strung up on utility poles — until a new tech startup based in Virginia emerged with robotic tractors that are opening up a new world of possibilities for broadband infrastructure on the ground.
On Orbit caught up with Startup Space-winner Daniel Turner, CEO and Co-Founder of TRAXyL, a company that is developing an automated, tractor-powered fiber deployment solution. Instead of crops, Daniel’s automated tractor plants fiber broadband lines along highways and existing paved infrastructure. The goal is to bring high-speed connectivity to millions of municipalities, small businesses, hospitals, school campuses, event complexes, and government and military facilities.
TRAXyL installs optical fiber lines along existing roadways without digging deep trenches. The company’s patented driverless FiberTRAXtor vehicle installs a fiber line on the surface of the road and then covers and protects the line with the company’s FiberTRAX resin. In this episode, Daniel shared the company’s origins, how he and his partner came up with the idea of using an automated tractor, and how technologies like the FiberTRAXtor can benefit the satellite and space sectors and, hopefully, the deployment of 5G wireless.
This is an extended version of an interview that was featured in the May edition of Via Satellite.

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By Gluing Fiber to the Ground, Startup Thinks It Can Slash Broadband Installation Costs for Local Government

July 6, 2018 | By Ben Miller | GovTech.com

Whenever a city wants to install high-speed Internet – be it for economic development, cost-savings for emergency responders or local schools – it must first answer a question: low or high? If a city puts its fiber cables underground, it has to close down traffic, pay the cost 

of digging equipment and endure the risk of unexpected obstacles like a hidden sheet of rock. If it decides to string up the fiber along utility poles, it has a lot of legal maneuvering, negotiations and paperwork ahead of it to secure permission ­– before it signs on to pay a leasing fee that never goes away.

In Stillwater, OK, and Fauquier County, VA, people are trying a third option. They are, for lack of a better term, gluing it to the ground.

“When you think of broadband, the fiber-optic cables are usually up in the air or they’re buried underground,” said Meagan Kascsak, communications coordinator for the city of Stillwater. “This is kind of in between, it’s on a hard surface like a street or a parking lot in this case.”

The city’s pilot project, which began in May 2017, is one of the first for a startup based in the greater Washington, D.C., area called Traxyl (stylized as TRAXyL). The company has patented methods to adhere fiber cables to hard surfaces using substances that should protect them from basically anything, from weather to 50-ton excavators.

The company’s still working out the exact formula it will use for the resin coatings, but central to the process is methyl methacrylate. Usually called MMA, road-managing agencies – more in Europe than the U.S. – typically use the stuff as a hardier version of paint for traffic markings. Sellers market it as an alternative that can stand up to abuse in colder climes. Some use it as a quick option for installing new floors.

Traxyl is mostly looking at it for last-mile applications. That is, if a city installs a fiber network, it could use the company’s product to run fiber from that central network to the actual customers that will use it.

The substance takes about 15 minutes to cure, meaning fiber can be laid quickly without closing off the area for too long.

But probably the biggest potential benefit of the MMA approach is cost. “Our costs aren’t identified yet because we’re not at scale, we’re still a small startup, but we’re thinking about costs of $5 a foot and even lower with scale,” said Daniel Turner, Traxyl’s founder and CEO. “Trenching can be anywhere from $15 to $300 per foot, depending on what obstacles you’re getting into.”

And that’s what has Fauquier County Public Schools excited. As far as school systems are concerned, it’s all about bottom-line cost,” said Todd Hickling, the school district’s information services manager. “So, we have to get the best most cost-effective option, so that’s obviously going to be right up there.”

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative, said bringing down the installation time and cost of last-mile connections could change several things for local governments looking to build networks. For one thing, it could make it easier to justify building into less densely populated areas.

“If you can really lower the costs of getting the last mile out there, then you don’t need as many customers to break even,” Mitchell said.

It could also give local governments more flexibility when it comes to planning. In many places, governments that want to bury fiber will wait until some other project opens up the ground first. That’s a cost-saving measure, but it means waiting.

Traxyl’s approach could give them a way to quickly establish a connection, then make it more permanent later. “If I was doing this as a city or county, I’d look at this as a way to get fiber out quickly and then over the next five or six years, get it underground,” Mitchell said. “So, you can have your network, achieve your purposes and then try to have a more substantial underground network.”

Mitchell’s main concern about Traxyl’s approach is the possibility of cables being damaged. Maybe tree roots push up through a sidewalk the cables are glued to, for example.

“My concern would be one of liability, and particularly I’m dealing with lots of local governments where they want to make sure the police are well-connected, and you don’t want a technology that somebody could inadvertently or [intentionally] disable so easily,” he said.

Turner is confident in the product’s ability to protect cables from overhead trauma. In Stillwater, the city intentionally ran snowplows, trash trucks and other big vehicles over the line to test it and it’s still working for them. He said the product barely rises off the ground, so it doesn’t provide an edge for things to catch on.

But tree roots aside, there could easily be reasons for the city to need to move or even destroy fiber that it has glued to the ground, like sidewalk repair or resurfacing. In those cases, Turner said, there are options to remove the coatings.

Ultimately, he said, it’s a matter of cost. And Traxyl’s goal is to bring down installation costs so far that it’s not a big deal to mitigate those concerns – by laying down redundant lines, or perhaps by simply destroying one line and laying down a new one.

After all, fiber itself is not that expensive. Judging by online sellers, typical costs are between 3 and 8 cents per strand per foot.

“One of our thoughts is if we have it on multiple sides of the road and it’s on every road, you start building this mesh network effect where you’re not as worried about outages anymore as you are if you just have a single cable,” Turner said.

And the product might need attention a tad more frequently than buried cables. Turner said agencies that use MMA for road paint have reported 10-year lifespans, but according to Mitchell cities that bury fiber expect to have it in place, unperturbed, for multiple decades.

Traxyl is still just getting started, but it is ticking the boxes of progress through startup-hood. It’s secured five pilot projects, it participated in the Dreamit startup accelerator program, it’s gained entry into the Halcyon House Incubator in Virginia, and it just won a small business innovation award of about $225,000 from the National Science Foundation.

“We’d like to get our machinery or tools into the hands of installers across the country,” Turner said.

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Another day, another Success Story.

Check out the many ways TRAXyL is making a difference for cities, towns, businesses and the military around the country.

D.C. Telecom Company Raising $3M to Bridge the Digital Divide

July 5, 2018 | By Sara Gilgore | Staff Reporter | Washington Business Journal

The minds behind D.C.-based Traxyl Inc. are working to expand high-speed internet access across the country — and, now, they’re seeking $3 million to advance their solution beyond initial testing. We last told you about the company in September, when co-founders

Daniel Turner and Stephen Carter were piloting their FiberTrax technology after the startup was accepted to Georgetown’s Halcyon Incubator. They have since put their plans into motion to bridge the digital divide, and make television, internet and gaming available to people despite their location. It’s hot-button issue, as some regions in the U.S., namely rural areas, experience economic and social inequalities because they lack access to broadband services.

Health care, particularly for telemedicine, and education are among the industries hungry for greater connectivity, according to Turner.

The Traxyl team’s answer? Taking the optical fibers bundled inside of cables, laying them directly onto paved roads and encasing them in protective coating. The process is intended to build these networks cheaper and faster than traditional methods.

The duo plans to do a few things with the $3 million in seed funding:

Develop the machines. The FiberTraxters, as they’re called, lay out the optical fiber. The goal, Turner said, would be to lease these machines to installers building optical networks. He said he’s hoping to be able to roll out a commercially releasable product in the next nine months to a year.

Build the team. Traxyl currently has four full-time employees, and several others working with them: vendors, a scientist, back-office, marketing and financial support; and contractors for specific projects. Closing the seed round would allow the team to hire engineers to work on machinery design.

Find new space. The company splits its time between its D.C. office at Halcyon House in Georgetown and a space in Fauquier County. But the co-founders expect to move all operations to an industrial warehouse on the Dulles corridor, once they have the capital.

Traxyl was just awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation, totaling nearly $225,000, according to Turner. The company is using the money for third-party lab testing, to determine how long FiberTrax last on the roads.

Traxyl is also completing the Tampa, Florida-based Dreamit startup accelerator, an arm of the Philadelphia-based venture capital firm, which provides pre-Series A digital health and urban tech startups with early support to grow their businesses. Up to this point, the co-founders have bootstrapped Traxyl, with roughly $200,000 invested. Turner declined to disclose revenue figures.

For now, the company – a 2017 Washington Business Journal Innovation Awards honoree – is competing with the other techniques used to install fiber, like trenching, as well as wireless technology companies. But Turner said he sees the business as complementary.

“We’re actually thinking that using this technique, we could expand the connection that one might otherwise be able to make, or expand the reach of a wireless antenna by connecting to it and allowing that antenna to be a little further around,” he said. “We think we’re actually going to be opening up new markets that are currently just inaccessible because there’s not enough money to support these projects.” The end-game? Go international. The team is in talks with counties across the U.S., from California to Texas to Florida, and sees opportunity outside of the country in the Middle East and parts of Africa, for example. The business also aims to slash the cost of installation: Using utility poles costs about $50,000 per mile, whereas trenching can run as much as $200,000 per mile, Turner estimates.

Over time, Traxyl hopes to bring the FiberTrax price to $20,000 to $25,000 per mile.

The issue Traxyl aims to address has been highlighted by recent bipartisan efforts in Congress, with legislation directing the Federal Communications Commission to establish the Office of Rural Broadband, to provide people in rural communities access to affordable and reliable telecom and broadband tech.

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Washington, DC-based MindShare Selects Daniel Turner of TRAXyL for its 2018 Membership Class

March 06, 2018 | Warrenton, VA

TRAXyL, an innovator in optical fiber broadband deployment, is proud to announce its inclusion in MindShare, an exclusive organization designed for CEOs of the most promising high-tech companies in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. 

Founded in 1997, MindShare handpicks CEOs every year from the area’s hottest emerging growth companies to come together in a private, intimate setting. Its mission is to help CEOs build long-term, sustainable companies by creating opportunities for growth, building a sense of community, and fostering teamwork in a collegial environment.

‘We are delighted that TRAXyL will be a part of this year’s program.  Each year we strive to choose a class that represents strength and diversity of new tech companies in the region,” stated Steve Balistreri, Managing Director at Deloitte and executive committee board member. “We received more than 200 nominations this year, so it is a great distinction to be a part of this year’s class.”

The 2018 members of MindShare will attend series of classes led by notable speakers on topics for building a business at the CEO level. At the end of the year, members with significant attendance will graduate and then join the powerful alumni network of more than 1,000 CEOs. The 2018 class kicked off with a special event at the Capital One Arena hosted by Ted Leonsis and the MindShare Board.

MindShare is run by co-chairs Harry Glazer of Sprockit; April Young of Hercules Technology Growth Capital, Inc.; and Gene Riechers of 1855 Capital. The Board’s Executive Committee also includes Steve Balistreri of Deloitte & Touche, LLP, and Michael Lincoln of Cooley, LLP. MindShare is supported by a board of industry veterans who are committed to building a strong ecosystem for success.

About TRAXyL

TRAXyL is turning every road into a digital highway with their product: FiberTRAX. FiberTRAX is the pathway for any city or town to enable a data driven future. FiberTRAX is a smarter optical fiber distribution system that can be used by municipalities, Internet service providers and anyone looking to distribute optical fiber. FiberTRAX protects fiber strands with a highly durable, road-surface bonding material that avoids the cost of trenching. Applying fiber directly to the road is more efficient, less expensive, safer and easier to install and repair than all other industry distribution techniques. This universal technology can stand alone or enhance existing networks. FiberTRAX is a “last mile” solution that provides communities and disconnected areas with the connectivity necessary for essential Internet services.

About MindShare 
Founded in 1997, MindShare’s mission is to help CEOs from the most promising high tech emerging growth companies in the Greater Washington Metropolitan region build long-term, sustainable companies by providing mentorship, creating business opportunities and a sense of community, and fostering teamwork in a collegial environment. Year after year, the CEOs who graduate from MindShare reaffirm its enduring value through continued business opportunities and lasting friendships.

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Tech Startup Building Broadband on Road Surfaces

July 11, 2017 | By Alexis Kramer | Bloomberg BNA | Technology, Telecom & Internet Blog

A new way to distribute optical fiber, the technology used to deliver high-speed internet service, may be coming to cities in Maryland and Virginia. Fiber-optic cables are usually buried underground in trenches or bundled on top of utility poles. Tech startup TRAXyL Inc. 

created a new method to install the technology: on the surface of roads. According to the company, its FiberTRAX technique is faster and easier to install, less costly, and poses minimal disruptions. TRAXyL has already installed FiberTRAX in Stillwater, OK to connect the city’s traffic control center to the network. The company is awaiting approvals for proposed pilot programs in Baltimore, MD and Fauquier County, VA, as well as from small wireless internet service providers in Richmond and Gordonsville, VA. TRAXyL co-founder and chief operating officer Stephen Carter, told Bloomberg BNA. Baltimore’s Department of Transportation is evaluating TRAXyL’s proposal, Connor Scott, the department’s deputy director, told Bloomberg BNA. Scott said the proposal would be to connect an existing public works facility to a new building that will serve as headquarters for the city’s conduit system. “We’re definitely interested and would like to try the technology out, but we haven’t yet made a decision,” Scott said. A spokesperson for Fauquier County didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. According to Carter, TRAXyL developed the technique to help close the gap between rural and urban access to high-speed internet access. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has said closing this “digital divide” is a top priority and formed a committee in January to recommend how to remove regulatory barriers to deployment in under-served areas. FiberTRAX could be used to expand rural broadband access and deploy 5G wireless infrastructure, Carter said. He also said it could be used for connectivity in temporary situations such as marathons, concerts, or for disaster relief. So far, installation of the technology has been well-received. The city of Stillwater hasn’t had problems with FiberTRAX, Tully McCrory, traffic control technician for Stillwater, told Bloomberg BNA July 10. The city has been using the technology since May 23.

© 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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A Sticky Solution to Building Broadband Infrastructure?

April 12, 2017 | By James Ivancic | Fauquier Times | fauquier.com

Photo: Adam Goings

Fiber glued into asphalt is being “road tested” in a manner of speaking to see if it stands up as a lower cost alternative to bringing broadband to homes and businesses. Traxyl, a company based in Warrenton, affixes the fiber to asphalt using a special resin the

partners had a lab make for them. It’s cheaper than burying the fiber underground.

Traxyl installed the fiber along the driveway leading to the town of Warrenton’s public utility building off Falmouth Street. The town is interested in ways to bring broadband service to underserved areas, as is Fauquier County.

Traxyl’s sticky method came up during a chat that led to an “aha!” moment. “Dan’s sister is a dentist. This is a similar resin to what’s used by dentists. This all started with a talk around the dinner table,” said Stephen T. Carter, co-founder and chief operating officer at Traxyl.

Dan is Daniel R. Turner, Traxyl’s founder and chief executive officer. His uncle, Keith H. Turner, is vice president of sales. There’s also another Turner – Phillip K. – who is the company’s technical adviser. He’s Dan’s dad.

The company developed what it calls FiberTRAX, a way of establishing the final connection of broadband service from the provider to the customer, whether that be a government building, business or home.

At the Falmouth Street location, Traxyl ran 360 feet of fiber from a connection at a junction box by the street, down the long driveway, past a parking area to a box affixed to the outside of the building. The line isn’t live, it’s not transmitting data, but the installation is meant to mimic what a Traxyl connection would look like.

The specially-made resin sticks the thin fiber to the asphalt. The fiber is visible. It was installed during a single day on Oct. 1. The installation at the utility building is serving as a test to see how well it holds up under weather conditions and to vehicles running over it. So far, so good, Carter said.

“This is bare fiber directly on the road surface encased in resin. The traditional way is to trench it or string it overhead,” he said. Digging and burying takes more time and it’s more expensive. Putting it overhead is unsightly.

“Everybody is trying to get rid of overhead lines or connecting to higher speeds,” said Keith Turner. “The town of Warrenton is interested in high-speed fiber without tearing up roads. “Cars drive over this every day,” he said as he pointed out the line that’s taking a beating from the tires of vehicles.

The goal is to perfect the installation of the fiber to drive the cost down to between $2 to $6 per foot as opposed to the $40 to $100 Carter said it costs to bury a line. The rockier the soil, the more costly it is to bury it.

The Traxyl way is less disruptive, he said. It’s also easier to repair. Investors have come out to look at the test installation. “We’re developing a machine to install this fiber automatically” rather than by hand, Carter said. “We’re looking at air compressor guns.”

Investment income will help finance that effort.

“Eventually we want this to be part of the paving operation,” said Keith Turner. “We’re installing a dark fiber network in broad daylight,” he quipped. The company is looking for other places where it could do test installations.

Town and Fauquier County officials are interested in what Traxyl is doing. The board of supervisors want to expand broadband service to underserved areas of the county. Traxyl’s method could be one way to make the final connection to the end point building to the place at the street where a service provider has a connection.

Traxyl is also talking to officials in Winchester and Baltimore about their method.

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