Council discusses new fiber optics system for municipality

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Plainville Town Council hosted a special meeting on Monday, June 18, for a presentation regarding a fiber optics system being integrated throughout town.

Fiber optics is the use of thin flexible fibers of glass or other transparent solids to transmit light signals, chiefly for telecommunications.

Kevin Ross, director of information technology, explained that currently the town has leased fiber, on a 20 year contract, that connects the municipal building, the Board of Education, and all of the schools to the fiber housed at Plainville High School. There is a town-owned underground fiber housed in Town Hall that is utilized by the Police Department and Plainville Public Library. The Fire House is on a loaned fiber from the “public safety network” to the police department. Ross said all locations have internet access via the Connecticut Education Network, which is housed at Plainville High School.

Currently, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Plainville Senior Center, the Water Pollution Control Center, roadways, buildings and grounds, and police repeaters are not on a fiber network.

Currently, Ross explained, Plainville has “no control over” all of the “non-fiber computing and internet access.” There’s “limited bandwidth,” which means that the response time is slow. The police repeaters are on what’s called “T1” lines, which Ross said “are expensive and will eventually be phased out.” The police repeater at Toffolon School has to run messages from the “Police Department to Town Hall to the Board of Education to the high school to the middle school” and from there, to one of the three Toffolon police repeaters. “A power failure at any of those locations in the chain will cause the repeater to go offline,” said Ross.

“Some of the fiber benefits, decreased monthly costs year over year by removing those extra providers: now, will it totally offset the costs? No, but your year to year annual budget would decrease because once you build the network, you’d need just a maintenance budget, and those cable modems and T1 lines, things like that, would be no longer paid for,” said Ross.

Other benefits include being able to “monitor and filter internet access at all locations,” “having centralized camera storage and access via the police department”, “improved reliability of the town network at all locations,” “automation control of town buildings,” which would “lower energy costs,” “wireless access in parks to allow for multiple applications such as Raptor Visitor Management System,” which Ross said would allow, say, the public pools, to run background checks quickly when checking someone in. Fiber would also allow “access to all town IT resources”, and “will last 25 years and should last 30 to 40 years.”

“The schools are eligible for what’s called E-Rate, it’s the universal service fund we all pay in our phone bills and cable bills, that is money that comes back to schools and libraries for internet access and communication,” said Ross. “We would receive up to 50 percent reimbursement if we can get this through and approved from the E-Rate, or universal service fund. That would cover the costs of about one-third of the entire project.”

Ross said the school network would be six miles long, and the town network would be three miles long. He said the plan is to “utilize the E-Rate funding to pay for half of the six miles, and then the town would pay the additional pieces,” and that they would start the application process in winter 2019.

“The estimated cost of the project, since you saw this, has gone up a little bit – there was a 3 percent increase – the project is approximately $610,883,” said Ross. “Possible E-Rate reduction, again this is just taking those numbers and saying that if they pay for half of the network for the board, would be $229,378. So, the total cost to the town would be $458,755.”

Ross explained that currently, the town pays around $35,380 for internet access, after 20 years, approximately $707,600 is spent on internet. If the town was to enter into a 20 year lease with the current provider, it would spend approximately $440,500.

The cost of purchasing the fiber would be approximately $610,882, and the estimated “make ready” cost, actually setting up and connecting the network, would be approximately $77,250, bringing the 20-year cost of owning fiber to $688,132. But, with the possible reimbursement savings of $229,377, the net 20 year cost of owning fiber would be approximately $458,755.

Ross said these numbers are approximations, and should the council decide to go forward with this plan, the project would go back out to bid so that more concrete numbers could be brought to the council.

Comments? Email tmurchison@BristolObserver.com.