Aurora, Ill., Committee Stalls on Fiber Network Addition

City officials asked for more information about a plan to add a secondary fiber-optic line to link with Naperville’s network. The existing connection enables a shared emergency communication system.

(TNS) — An Aurora City Council committee this week further delayed consideration of a fiber-optic connection to Naperville.

Aldermen on the Finance Committee are looking at a plan to spend $178,137 to push the city's fiber-optic line from the southwest side of Diehl and Eola roads to the southeast side.

Aurora information technology officials want the connection so they can link up with Naperville's fiber-optic system. Aurora already has a connection to Naperville's system — important because the two cities share emergency communication systems — but wants a second, redundant one as a backup.

City officials have been considering the issue since last November, with aldermen questioning if the primary motive for the connection is the secondary connection to Naperville, or economic development of four lots at the southeast corner of the intersection.

While aldermen are fine with providing fiber optic to the four lots — making them prime for economic development — they have said the question of the motive for the extension is a question of who pays for it.

Aldermen have said that adding fiber for economic development reasons is the purview of OnLight Aurora, the city’s not-for-profit corporation that handles the city’s fiber-optic network. In that case, companies seeking the connection should pay for the hookups, not the city, aldermen have said.

“Your emphasis has been the backup for Naperville, but it brings the development in,” said Ald. Robert O’Connor, at large, this week to economic development and technology officials. “Wouldn’t this have been the purview of OnLight Aurora?”

City technology officials, as well as representatives from OnLight Aurora, along with the city’s economic development officials, appeared before the Finance Committee this week to provide more information and answer questions.

But O’Connor and other members of the Finance Committee — Ald. Ted Mesiacos, 3rd Ward, and Ed Bugg, 9th Ward — held over any recommendation to the Feb. 9 Finance Committee meeting, seeking yet further information.

Technology officials have insisted the project is a city of Aurora project, to extend the spine of the fiber network to meet up with Naperville.

Officials presented information showing that connections elsewhere to Naperville would be far more expensive, in the $400,000 to $500,000 range. They also said that outages in November and December, one for 10 hours and another for a matter of days, compromised the connection between the Aurora and Naperville public safety communications systems. That’s why the redundancy connection is needed, technology officials said.

“This wasn’t an OnLight Aurora project, it was a city of Aurora project,” said Keith Gerald, OnLight Aurora executive director.

Gerald admitted the project does have an ancillary economic development benefit if those corner lots at Diehl and Eola are connected. He said if that happens, OnLight Aurora would step in and any companies locating at the intersection would pay to connect to the fiber system.

“Yes, there’s opportunities if we build that corner,” Gerald said.

Mike Baker, a network engineer for Aurora, said as part of the buildout for the connection to Aurora, the city would include conduit for the eventual hookups by businesses to OnLight. But he said part of the reason to include that is there are so many connections underneath that intersection, that there is not much more room left.

“If we go in, no one else will come,” Gerald said. “There will be no more room.”

OnLight Aurora is a not-for-profit organization tasked with growing the city’s fiber optic network to businesses, education facilities and government buildings. It is related to the city through a master services agreement.

The reason for so many connections at Diehl and Eola roads on the southwest corner is nearby CyrusOne, which handles and stores data for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, as well as nine other foreign exchanges.

Companies involved in the trading business want to be located as close as possible to that information.

After the Finance Committee delayed any recommendation another month, Michael Pegues, Aurora’s chief information officer, released a statement criticizing the delay.

“The Finance Committee’s reluctance to approve (the resolution), without reasonable justification, negatively impacts public safety, city operations and economic growth in the city of Aurora,” he said.

©2019 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.