The City Council of Upper Arlington, Ohio on Oct. 26 approved several contracts that will enable the community to build a municipal fiber-optic network to key anchor institutions for an estimated $2.5 million.
Upper Arlington’s project will provide high-speed Internet service for the city’s buildings, the Public Library, Upper Arlington city schools, and most city parks according to a news report from the Upper Arlington News. The 30-mile fiber network will serve about 40 locations around the boundaries of the city (population 34,000).
Besides establishing better connectivity between the three public partners’ buildings, the network is expected to provide opportunities for commercial companies to lease telecommunications services. The network would allow the city to lease some of the 288 fiber strands to commercial companies, such as other Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Financing and Break Even
Under the cooperative arrangement, the library will contribute $17,616 annually, the city $68,484 per year and the school district $177,900 each year until the project is paid off. “These costs are derived from the amounts that each entity is currently paying for leased broadband connectivity between their facilities,” Upper Arlington Assistant City Manager Dan Ralley told us.
The period anticipated to pay off the network construction is nine years with the school district and library able to extend the parties’ shared-services agreement for an additional 15 years after. The extensions would occur in three five-year segments.
Cost savings, broader bandwith
Ralley says the primary benefits of the new city fiber-optic network will be significantly lower long-term bandwidth and broadband access costs. For example, the city of Upper Arlington expects to save about $1,280 a month for Internet service by building its own fiber network. Over 10 years, the city’s savings would total about $150,000.
And the municipal network will be a boon for the Upper Arlington public schools. In an Oct. 19, 2015 staff report, Ralley said:
Upper Arlington Schools’ available bandwith capacity is a growing concern given the current and future 21st century learning initiatives that are premised upon the use of technology. With increased bandwith between buildings, the potential for ubiquitous computing is possible along with more collaborative learning tools delivered through online learning management systems.
Network will enable access to two major data centers
Another benefit: the new network will enable Upper Arlington to “gain direct access to two different data centers located on the periphery of our community,” Ralley told us. Those are “the Ohio Supercomputing Center and a private facility owned by Expedient that will allow us to locate our servers in a carrier neutral facility that has redundant power feeds and lower broadband access costs,” he noted.
“Expedient can provide the City an internet connection of 30 Mbps which is burstable to 100 Mbps at a much lower cost than our current provider,” Ralley said in his Oct. 19 staff report.
New network incentive for economic development
Not to be overlooked, Upper Arlington’s new fiber-optic network is also expected to boost the community’s desirability for economic development.
“The number of businesses that are looking for access to affordable, high bandwith is increasing,” Ralley said in his staff report. He added:
While Upper Arlington does not have a large number of businesses that would typically utilize fiber optic data connections, we have attractive commercial development areas where access to available fiber can be used to attract businesses that require large bandwith. The City could leverage the community fiber optic network for economic development incentives or use it to help lower the cost of operating a business in UA, thereby providing a competitive advantage.
In one case, the city will be providing dark fiber to a new Ohio State University Medical facility that is currently under construction, Ralley told us. That arrangement is a condition of a $500,000 grant that the state of Ohio has given Upper Arlington to build its fiber-optic network. Dark fiber, fiber-optic cable currently not in use, is particularly important for medical centers because it offers more control over network quality and allows for very fast networks at affordable budgets.
Also the city will be entering into an IRU (Indefeasible Right of Use) with the fiber construction contractor Thayer, that will enable them to market and sublease fiber strands by other third parties, he said.
Given the direction of the Upper Arlington broadband network, the community will be getting a system that will have many potential benefits but little risk with the city serving as its anchor tenant.