Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ammon, I.F., officials to discuss network, data sharing

Officials from Idaho Falls and Ammon have been summoned to meet at the Bonneville County Commission office Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. to talk about connecting their fiberoptic networks, but Idaho Falls Power Director Jackie Flowers said she has already offered her opinion that she thinks there are less expensive ways to share data.

“There’s a lot of data that moves in this world that’s not on the same piece of wire,” she said.

According to a story in Tuesday's Post Register, the meeting was called by Bonneville County Commission Chairman Roger Christensen. “You want the fastest, most reliable system you can put together, because otherwise you’re gambling with people’s lives," he told the newspaper.

But Flowers said she told county and Ammon officials in a memo last summer that she thought a virtual private network would be less expensive and just as effective. GIS address data, to aid ambulance workers and firefighters, could be updated and uploaded every night and would be available to all three parties.

“I’m a little mystified what this project is and what the need is,” she said, adding that she will be at the meeting Wednesday.

Since the mid-2000’s, Idaho Falls has had fiber strung to all compass points within city limits. Originally approved in 2002 to replace aging copper wire and allow Voice over Internet Protocol communications, the fiber connects city offices and facilities. Fiber strands are also available in pairs to businesses and Internet service providers at $1,340 per month, a cost laid out in the City Code.

At the moment, the city has 22 pairs leased to companies such as Melaleuca, Mountain View Hospital and Battelle Energy Alliance, and ISPs like Digis. Altogether, the leases net Idaho Falls Power roughly $500,000 a year. Flowers said they anticipate paying off ahead of schedule the $2.7 million loan the city took from its utility reserves to build the network.

“We’ve had a very successful run,” she said.

Because the city leases only dark fiber, it has avoided some of the legal problems cities like Chatanooga, Tenn., and Lafayette, La., have encountered competing with telecoms like Verizon and ATT. “It’s as basic an infrastructure as you can get. We would welcome Century Link or Cable One leasing pairs if it made sense for them,” she said.

Ammon’s fiber system is newer and a work in progress. In addition to linking all its offices and facilities the city is providing four 10-gigabyte connections to Bonneville Joint School District 93. Fiber is also being leased to cell phone service providers (linking their towers) and some private businesses, said Bruce Patterson who oversees the city’s broadband operations.

Patterson said Ammon, Idaho Falls and Bonneville County would benefit by having an integrated fiber system for sharing the information for which they’re all responsible. “If we could find a more efficient way to operate it would trick down to the public,” he said.