State Tech Magazine recently ran an article that talks about creative ways county officials can extend the network – even in tough terrain. They talk about Alaska’s approach to extending their network with high tower sites and microwave. Minnesota also gets a nod for good work in Minnesota…
No one has used this so-called “collaborate intensely and dig once” strategy better than Dakota County, Minn. This 562-square-mile area is home to 11 cities, but also an expansive swath of rustic countryside and open farmland bordered by the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers.
Over the past several years, the county’s IT team, led by Network Collaboration Engineer David Asp, has put in place a lightning-fast, 353-mile redundant fiber network connecting 450 sites, including county agencies, parks, schools, first responders, traffic signals and utilities. The network has saved the county nearly $20 million — what it would have otherwise paid to phone and internet providers.
Asp notes that the county has been extremely creative and thorough in its resourcefulness.
“I look at everything from the county’s interest and figure out how we can make that overlap or coincide with the interests of others,” he says. “Whenever I plan a network route through rural areas, I get out a map and figure how I can take it past, for example, a National Guard unit, a school, a power substation or traffic signals.”
By doing that, Asp and his team can leverage existing infrastructure, qualify for federal or state funds, or partner with other organizations. As an example, the tiny town of Farmington had long ago installed conduit and 12 strands of fiber to its school. Asp and his team offered to replace that infrastructure with 144 fiber strands in exchange for right-of-way access and use of extra-capacity fiber.
“That allowed us to then tie into another neighboring community,” Asp says, noting that he and his team made a $1.25 million bulk purchase of fiber at a 25 percent discount that enables these types of trades. “Then we go in, use our expertise, leverage federal grants that we get for hooking up traffic signals, build out the entire community with fiber optics and then lease that back to the local government for their critical services.”