Saline To Get Modernized Fiberoptics System

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Broadband access has been one of the key indicators for the viability of sustaining and expanding local economies and businesses for years now. Saline’s City Council took a step towards improving its broadband connectivity across city operations by passing a measure on December 5 to modernize connectivity for city employees.

“The city’s existing facilities have maxed out our bandwidth capacity. We generate a lot of information as a local unit and have a pretty heavy demand on bandwidth for our uses. So, we have gotten to a point where we need to identify alternative means for our broadband services,” City Manager Colleen O’Toole said in an interview by phone. She added that the contractor awarded the contract “seemed like an ideal fit for the community to move in the direction of having some dedicated fiber between our facilities so we could operate an unlimited network to meet the demands of our organization. The nice side about the project is that we are also improving the overall security of the city’s systems by creating one centralized point out of multiple points of access into our network.”

The new dark fiber system will be installed by 123 Net, a Southfield-based company which the city of Saline already has a relationship with, as does Saline Area Schools. Part of the existing network will be replaced, although O’Toole said there will be some degree of redundancy built into the system in case one part of the fiberoptic cable is ever damaged for whatever reason.

City Council approved a $450,000 ten year agreement
with 123 Net to improve the software reliability, security and scalability for municipal departments; thus allowing public employees to complete tasks more efficiently and provide services to the public faster. The cost of building and maintaining the system is covered by the $3,750 per month commitment Saline has agreed to pay 123 Net.

Saline already has fiberoptic cables of course. The city has long been maxing out its in-house bandwidth due to the sheer amount of data operations require, according to city officials, with employees at different city-owned buildings sometimes being forced to work at different paces. The new extensions – shown in the map provided by 123 Net via the December 5 city council packet – will extend it to the water plant, wastewater treatment plant, public work’s department, and Rec Center. The existing system is shown in blue and the extensions are shown in red.

This deal will end “network lag in getting essential applications to load” according to Chris Shonk, Saline’s network administrator. He described in a memo to the Council that the situation led to “down time of our network entirely if our sole provider Is experiencing an outage. While having extra speed is needed without security and scalability to grow over time many replacement connection options will become limited prematurely, so a long-term solution is needed.”

This essentially creates a closed loop for the city to standardize processing speeds across city computers, according to Jeff Moreschell, a sales executive at 123 Net handling major government and education accounts. He added that this also means that there’s effectively no limit to the size of the files being shared; and as the city upgrades its computers over time, the new fiberoptic cables will be effectively able to grow with them.

“When we say ‘dark fiber’ we mean unlit, so there’s no capacity on it. The city of Saline is only limited by the type of equipment they have on each end, so with dark fiber they are capable of transmitting files between sites as high as a terabyte per second, if they had the equipment that allowed them to do that,” Moreschell said. “You’re only as capable as your weakest link, so as long they have the equipment to do that, upgrading it over the years, the capacity will always be there. Dark fiber never really becomes obsolete because you’re only limited by the equipment you have at either end.”

Other broadband utilities can use their network for what Moerschell called “last mile” connections of their client’s data to and from Saline’s businesses and homes. 123 Net is also making plans to expand into Saline’s neighborhoods. They will be expanding into around 800 homes in the Colony Estates, Northview and Rolling Meadows subdivisions.

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