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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

WB-RC approves funding for fiber optic installation

WEST BRANCH — The West Branch-Rose City Area School District will use $100,000 out of this year’s technology hardware fund to help kick start the installation of 17 miles of fiber optic cables between schools in the district.

WB-RC Board of Education members voted 6-0 Nov. 21 to team with Custom Software, the parent company of Rose City-based Internet provider M-33 Access, to link up its campuses with fiber optics, which district technology coordinator Tom Rea said will allow more data to be transferred much faster than the current T1 connection.

“(T1 is) not big enough to carry the data we’re trying to push through it,” Rea said. “We’re trying to push a bowling ball through a straw right now.”

“It’s a big cost up front,” Rea added. “To do it on our own would cost a half a million dollars.”

According to Russell Hall, network administrator for M-33 Access, WB-RC has irrevocable rights to a set number of fiber optic strands due to the partnership between the district and the company.

“The school has the rights for four strands from Rose City to the high school, and four strands from the high school to Surline,” Hall said.

WB-RC School Board President Dick Bachelder said he was grateful that M-33 Access reached out to the district to form the partnership, and that the cost had been weighed by board members prior to the Nov. 21 meeting.

“We did go over this quite a bit at the finance meeting,” Bachelder said. “M-33 Access does not have to do this with us at all.”

Rea said the $100,000 spent by the district to contract with M-33 Access will be protected by a performance bond from Diebold Insurance of West Branch. This will protect the district from any issues that may prevent the installation from being completed after the money is spent.

WB-RC Superintendent Dan Cwayna said the fiber optic infrastructure is an important step in upgrading technology at WB-RC

“This really is the first step in improving the technology in the district,” he said.

Currently, the district has the capability to push 4.5 megabytes per second to Rose City through its T1 link, and six megabytes per second at Surline, Rea said. With fiber optics, the district can transfer up to 10 gigabytes per second, he added.

Hall said one gigabyte is equal to 1,000 megabytes.

“This is going to be night and day for them,” he said.

Rea said M-33 Access would still install fiber optics without the $100,000 from WB-RC, but with a partnership, the installation process can move forward much more quickly.

Hall added that the partnership will also benefit M-33 Access, as the company will be able to use fiber optic strands for transporting data. People living along the route of the cables, he said, could also use some of the 48 strands that will be installed. Hall also said that besides the $100,000 to assist with the installation, WB-RC will also be responsible for annual maintenance fees.

The installation, according to Rea, should be finished by Jan. 1, 2013.

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