City enters agreement to provide broadband to schools [Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio :: ]
(Hamilton Journal News (OH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 24--HAMILTON -- More than 10 years after establishing a fiber optics network to run through the city, Hamilton has partnered to bring broadband Internet service over the city's network to three local schools, and are exploring further possibilities to increase service to the community.
The city announced in July that it reached an agreement with the Southwest Ohio Computer Association Council of Governments (SWOCA-COG) that allows SWOCA, an information technology center, to provide Internet service to three local schools via the city's fiber optic network.
Since July 1, St. Joseph's Consolidated School, St. Peter In Chains, and Stephen T. Badin High School receive Internet service for the next five years provided by SWOCA via fiber optic strands owned by the city. SWOCA pays the city $18,000 for each of the five years for the city's fiber optic connectivity and their guarantee of specific service levels.
Project Manager for the City's Department of Underground Utilities Mark Murray sees this agreement as a key success in the city's push to bring more broadband access to Hamilton, and as an indicator for future expansion's success.
"I think for anyone who worked on fiber optics in this city, it was a huge day," he said. "If ever there's a proof of concept, we've been able to prove this. Our network can be utilized beyond the needs of our city's utilities."
Mike Memory, Badin's director of technology services, said that the partnership ensures reliable Internet service all over campus.
"For collaboration, it's imperative that the students be able to connect with their teachers wherever they are, and especially on campus," he said. Badin ensures that the school's student body, staff, and faculty are constantly able to connect via their iPads and free Wi-Fi on campus. Having the city's fiber link come directly from SWOCA to Badin keeps their network services efficient.
"The service is something I can depend on, and it's a reduced cost for all of us," Memory said.
When the city first laid down 50 miles of fiber optics cable in the city in 2004, several options were considered for how to use the service.
"There's considerable room for more use," Murray said. He sits on the city's We Connect People subcommittee, which was created in fall 2011 as part of City Manager Joshua Smith's strategic plan to explore ways to expand the network's uses. Following the agreement with SWOCA to provide service to these three first schools, the committee looks to work further with the center to facilitate service to other organizations within the city.
"SWOCA's charter allows them to provide internet service to schools, public and non-public, and some public entities as well," Murray said. "Not only would we like to explore providing fiber to more schools, the city would like to explore SWOCA offering Internet services to the Hamilton Mill, for example, since they are a nonprofit."
The perception that the city hasn't made good use of their fiber is "absolutely not true," Murray said. Currently, the city's utility systems -- those that bring electric power to residents' houses, or pump natural gas to the stoves and heaters -- work on the fiber optics network.
The city also provides dark fiber -- unlit strands of fiber -- to the Lane Libraries to run their own Internet service through.
Chip Kruthoffer, systems manager for the Lane Libraries, said that their arrangement with the city began in 2006, with the creation of the administration center at 1396 University Blvd.
"We needed a better connection for the library on Third Street (300 N. Third St.) back to the new administration center to accommodate increasing traffic," he said. "We explored commercial options and contacted the city about the possibility of using their fiber."
Kruthoffer said that the libraries benefited from significant cost savings over competing commercial options and their "most reliable connection" by using the city's network. They currently connect both the Hamilton branch and the Community Technology Center, 10 Journal Square, to the administration building via the fiber optic network. The Oxford branch at 15 S. College Ave, and Fairfield branch at 1485 Corydale Dr. currently connect to the administration center via fiber from Time Warner Cable.
"Having access to the City Fiber allows us to allocate money we'd otherwise have to spend on commercial providers to new materials and services," he added.
Next on the committee's agenda is to use the network to bring cheaper and more reliable broadband service to Hamilton's businesses.
"The next step is to continue to evaluate other service providers, talking to them and determining what it takes to bring them to the market," Murray said. "If they are here, what do they need/want from us in order to be able to utilize our network? If they want to enter this market and don't have the fiber infrastructure, why build it when we already have it?"
To better explain how the process works to bring Internet service to an organization via the fiber optics network, Murray says to "think of the fiber as a pipe."
"We have the pipe, but we don't have the Internet service that goes through it," he said. "That's what SWOCA provides, what Time Warner or Cincinnati Bell could provide."
"So our idea is have one or more of them come onto our network through an interconnection," he continued. "We would have core equipment set up in an established data center where they could tap into our network and once it is configured, they would be able to provide their services." Murray cited the city of Westerville and their 16,000-square-foot data center as an example of what they're interested in.
Should the fiber optic network go down for any reason, the city is in a position to know about it instantly and be on the scene quickly to restore broadband service.
"With the city owning the utilities and the fiber optic network, our crews can respond immediately and get the job done," Murray said.
By agreement, the city has access to fiber on the Butler County network and the county has access to fiber on the city's network, which can also be accessed in cases of network outages, Murray said.
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