Virginia Beach has launched a $4.1 million capital improvement project to extend the city’s high-speed Internet network to all municipal buildings. The network will also offer connection spots on the system for colleges, businesses, and neighboring cities, according to the Virginian Pilot.
The city (pop. 448,479) plans to more than double the reach of its municipal network, adding 73 more sites, including more police stations, fire stations, and libraries. Project work is currently underway and is expected to finish in the next year to 18 months. In addition to extending the municipal network, the project will include buying new networking equipment. The city is using money from its capital fund to pay for the project.
Once the project is completed, Virginia Beach will become the first community in the South Hampton Roads region of Virginia with its own Internet network linking all of its government buildings, the Virginian Pilot reported.
Growing City Internet Needs
Virginia Beach started its municipal Internet network in 2002 with the local public schools. Since then, the city has invested a total $27 million to install about 225 linear miles of fiber-optic cable, linking all the public schools along with “connecting many government buildings, including police stations, fire stations, libraries, recreation centers, and Human Services facilities,” according to a city news release.
Today, Virginia Beach’s burgeoning Internet needs are fueling its municipal network expansion. The network helps maintain traffic lights, facilitates video conferencing, and provides infrastructure for email. A city spokesperson told us that 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) symmetrical service is available to most of the sites on Virginia Beach’s municipal network.
Network Yields Savings
Once Virginia Beach’s municipal Internet network is fully implemented, the city will save about $500,000 annually in Internet access fees, Matt Arvay, Virginia Beach’s chief information officer, told the Virginian Pilot. For many years, Virginia Beach has paid to lease lines from Cox Communications for buildings not on its network. Without the need to lease those lines, the city can better control and predict their telecommunications costs.
Boosting The City’s Economic Development
City officials see expanding their municipal network also as a strong enticement to retain and attract economic development, including biomedical companies and other new high-tech businesses.
That includes establishing “connectivity opportunities for Old Dominion and Norfolk State universities and Tidewater Community College,” Mayor William D. Sessoms Jr. said recently in his 2016 State of the City address.
The mayor and other city officials also envision their expanded municipal network will provide neighboring cities the opportunity to connect to Virginia Beach’s network for their own municipal broadband.
In his State of the City address, Sessoms contended:
“Virginia Beach is on the verge of becoming the East Coast’s fiber transmission hub, facilitating ultra-high-speed broadband communications across the ocean. Picture this…. Lines of fiber running beneath the Atlantic Ocean — from Europe and Brazil to Dam Neck Road, and on to fiber transmission facilities at the Corporate Landing Business Park….With the expansion of broadband, we are on the cusp of incredible economic growth leading to innovations and breakthroughs in medicine, business and technology.”
Besides addressing its growing municipal needs, the city of Virginia Beach anticipates having enough fiber available to lease fiber to private businesses. If that occurs, one potential beneficiary could be the developers of a proposed biomedical park on 155 acres in Princess Anne Commons, according to Warren Harris, the city’s director of Economic Development,in the Virginian Pilot news story.
In April, the Virginia Beach City Council approved transferring that 155 acre parcel in Princess Anne Commons to the city Development Authority to create a biomedical-related business park. In an earlier news release, the city said, “Expanding ultra-high-speed Internet to the park is a high priority.”