Improved Fiber Network Could Boost Jobs in Springfield, Ohio

The city is applying for a grant to look at how to connect existing dark fiber to government buildings, schools and businesses.

by Michael Cooper, McClatchy News Service / December 18, 2013
Advanced Virtual Engine Test Cell, Inc. (Avetec) in Springfield, Ohio Avetec

Springfield, Ohio, wants to use an existing fiber-optic network to lure more jobs and reduce costs, following a trend of other municipalities in Ohio.

The city wants to create a fiber-optic connectivity system between the city, the county, Springfield City Schools, Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center and the Miami Valley Educational Computer Association, according to public documents.

The city has applied for a $50,000 Local Government Innovation Fund grant from the state for a feasibility study that would examine ways to connect the existing dark fiber ring to government buildings or schools and businesses. By creating the fiber-optic network between the school districts, it could lead to future cost savings, according to local school officials.

City commissioners and Springfield board of education members both passed resolutions of support last week.

"From an economic development standpoint, it's definitely capitalizing on an amenity that's already in the ground that we can use then to leverage as an additional incentive or perk to doing business in Springfield, especially business that's proximal to that fiber in the near-term," said Josh Rauch, the city's deputy economic development administrator. "Then as it builds out, you get more and more connectivity throughout the city."

Advanced Virtual Engine Test Cell Inc., or AVETEC, currently owns and operates 19 miles of fiber optic ring around the eastern part of the city, a portion of which is owned by the city. The ring runs from downtown along U.S. 40, down to Clark State Community College and up South Limestone with a termination at the AVETEC site.

The city's 24 strands are dark, meaning no one is currently using them for network capabilities.

By increasing the density of the network, Rauch said, it can become marketable to other businesses and Internet service providers who want to connect.

"The goal is to take the fiber build-out we've got and look at other places you could build fiber," Rauch said.

For example, the planned location for the Global Impact STEM Academy, the former South High School on South Limestone Street, is close to the fiber network and could be connected for extra bandwidth, Rauch said.

Oakwood, Kettering and Centerville recently received a similar grant through the state's Local Government Innovation Fund program to perform a similar study to unite fiber-optic networks between the three cities along Ohio 48.

'There's some historical precedence there," Rauch said.

The innovation program offers communities financial assistance to create more efficient and effective service delivery. The projects are expected to improve business and promote community attraction for "efficiency, collaboration, or shared services," according the Ohio Development Services Agency's website. With the program's assistance, communities will be able reduce costs and provide more efficient services. Grant and loan applications are accepted quarterly.

Rick Smith, the superintendent for the Springfield-Clark CTC, said the project could help improve operations at the school. The CTC has a one-to-one learning program, meaning all students are issued a laptop.

"Sometimes, we have some connectivity issues," Smith said. "We're hoping that this would improve our connectivity for our students and staff."

Thor Sage is the executive director of MVECA, a non-profit regional council of governments that provides technological services to 24 school districts in Clark, Clinton, Greene, Highland, Fayette, and Madison counties. Sage believes the collaboration with the city can reduce ongoing costs associated with a leased fiber network it maintains for the Springfield City School District and others in Clark County.

The organization has network connections at every school in Clark County, except Emmanuel Christian. It also hopes to build the fiber network to the county schools as well.

Down the road, Sage estimates school districts will need 10 gigabyte connections, rather than the one gigabyte connection it currently provides. He believes there will eventually be more one-to-one computing in schools.

"With the continuously increasing technology demands that schools are placing on our network, finding more affordable ways and long-term solutions for really robust network connectivity is essential," Sage said.

Stacy Parr, the director of technology and information services at Springfield City Schools, said the need for more capacity is essential, especially with recent initiatives at the state level such as computerized testing.

"There's always the need for increased bandwidth," Parr said.

(c) 2013 Springfield News-Sun, Ohio

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