Local governments have been creative in finding ways to conduct work remotely during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, conducting city council meetings via Zoom or congregating in football stadiums to vote on referendums. Soon, Summit County, Ohio and the city of Akron will be better equipped to do similar work. Both have passed council measures approving an agreement with the neighboring city of Fairlawn to expand the latter’s municipal network southeast, and create a fiber ring connecting county- and city-level criminal justice and public safety buildings. The Summit County Criminal Justice Technology Project, which will be complete by the end of the year, is designed to facilitate court proceedings and public safety work remotely in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
A Burnin' Ring of Fiber
FairlawnGig, the municipal network run by the city of the same name, has issued a Request for Qualifications to design and build the network extension it will then manage. The ring will consist of 20 miles of mostly 864-strand fiber (with some places getting 24-strand additions or upgrades) and the $6.5 million cost will be paid for by Summit County (the money is coming from CARES Act funds).
Summit County Executive Ilene said of the investment:
COVID-19 has forced us to rethink how government operates and delivers services. As we begin to adjust to life with the virus, we have to consider how to safely and efficiently meet the needs of our community. This project prioritizes both safety and efficiency.
The build combines both aerial and underground lines which start at the Ohio Building in downtown Akron and then wrap north around the University of Akron in a roughly mile-diameter loop, before linking back up and running five miles parallel to Market Street to FairlawnGig’s data center to the northwest. Along the way it will hit the county courthouse, the sheriff’s office, the Akron Police Department, the Ninth District Court of Appeals, the Akron Bar Association, the medical examiner’s office, the juvenile court, and the county jail and the Community Correctional Facility. The build will make use of existing city of Akron-owned conduit in places, and includes provisions for replacing some existing fiber on the way as well as for laying additional conduit for the city of Akron.
The RFQ was updated on August 25th to reflect minor route alterations to take into consideration gas and water lines not included in the first, as well as some additional small changes.
FairlawnGig has enjoyed robust subscriber growth and high customer satisfaction since its launch in 2016. Since completing its core network, it has gone on to form partnerships with communities like Tallmadge, Ohio and extend its services and capacity to the nearby Medina County Fiber Network.
Remote court proceedings are nothing new, though the pandemic has meant increased reliance. The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments over the phone, and states like Texas and Michigan have been relying on them heavily over the last half year, with the latter having conducted more than 100,000 hours of court proceedings since April 1. But the increasing reliance on simultaneous video means that robust Internet connections are a must. Policy advocates point out that while virtual court offers a host of benefits (not all having to do with clearing dockets during a pandemic), there are pitfalls that need to be avoided.
The agreement between cities of Fairlawn and Akron passed August 10, with the Summit County Council passing its measure on August 17. According to the press release, a decision will made by September 10, with construction starting October 1st and completed by December 30. Statements of Qualifications are due to the Department of Public Service by September 1st by 9am to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Download the RFQ here, or see it below.