Wednesday, November 18, 2015

County, city to explore fiber options

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 1:06 PM

Monroe County and City of Rochester officials want to hire a consultant to figure out how to best use their fiber networks.

Over the years, county workers have installed 367 miles of fiber optic cable throughout Monroe's towns and villages, and particularly in the City of Rochester, said Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks during a press conference this morning. Current network users are all in the public sector, and they include the county's public safety communications system, the city's fire and police departments, the county library system, and the Monroe County Water Authority. But they only use 18 percent of the system's capacity. (Fiber optic networks are incredibly fast and can handle massive amounts of data.)

The City of Rochester also owns a small amount of fiber, Mayor Lovely Warren said during the press conference.

The county and the city will issue a joint request for proposals to find an industry expert to evaluate the system, see how much capacity the governments can make available, and how they can use it to attract businesses, improve public Internet access, and bolster educational institutions.

It could also be a valuable asset for the city's Downtown Innovation Zone, which is basically any part of the city within the Inner Loop as well as High Falls. The zone is a mix of start-up tech, service, and retail businesses; incubator and entrepreneurship spaces and services; established architecture, design, and creative companies; and arts and culture organizations. Many of the businesses that city and economic development officials want to bring to the zone will need access to a high-bandwidth data network, Warren said.

"It's a resource we have that other communities want," she said.

Brooks said that the goal isn't to compete with private sector Internet and data providers, but to work with them to use the fiber to its full potential. She said she envisions a public-private partnership of some sort.

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