Holly Springs sets groundwork for Internet service

akenney@newsobserver.comJune 12, 2013 

— The town plans to lay up to 16 miles of high-speed data lines between town facilities and a high-speed regional network, and the project could form a backbone for commercial and residential Internet services.

Holly Springs would pay an estimated $1.5 million to bury the two underground fiberoptic rings within a year. The lines would connect town facilities to each other and to a regional hub known as the N.C. Research and Education Network.

As described by town staff and consultants, it’s cheaper for the town to build its own data infrastructure than to pay for upgrades from its private provider, Time-Warner Cable.

“With the fiber investment, we’re able to contemplate services that in a million years we’d never be able to buy,” said Joanne Hovis, president of CTC Technology & Engineering, in a presentation to the Holly Springs Town Council last week.

The town paid CTC about $21,000 to prepare a business case about the project.

The findings: The project would multiply connectivity speeds between government facilities, and it likely would be cheaper than buying network service from a private provider.

Even with construction costs, a town-owned network could provide “gigabit” service between government facilities for about $100,000 per year less than a private provider.

The new network may even cost less than 10 years of the town’s current lower-speed network service.

With the new construction, town facilities would be able to communicate with each other, and potentially to the Internet, at speeds up to 20 times faster than they get now.

Eventually, private companies could extend lines from the town-installed “backbone” to individual residences and businesses. However, this could require millions of dollars in investment.

Green lights

The Town Council liked the idea that Holly Springs would be in control of its communication technologies.

“Right now we’re held captive by a very limited source for these services, and that’s not going to change over the years,” said Councilman Tim Sack.

With better network speeds, some said, the town could bring in new technologies. It could monitor high-definition security cameras remotely, or install more “virtual desktops,” which allow the town to buy one central server instead of dozens of individual computers for employees.

The town also could increase speeds on the fiber later by installing relatively cheap new technology at the ends of the cables.

“Fiber is universally considered a future-proof investment,” Hovis said.

Other governments across the region are considering similar initiatives.

Cary has joined governments and universities from Raleigh to Winston-Salem. Together, the N.C. Next Generation Network hopes to find a private partner who would build a “gigabit” network, in part by using existing fiber-optic lines, underground conduits and data centers.

That initiative is now in talks with private companies who could help build out the project.

Holly Springs’ network could come online next year. The council will give further consideration to costs at a June 18 meeting.

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary

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