News Column

Schools, state to get lightning-fast Internet

June 18, 2014

By James Chilton, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Cheyenne



June 18--CHEYENNE -- Work will begin soon on upgrades to the state's fiber optic network.

When those are complete, lightning-fast Internet will be available to state agencies, school districts and, eventually, consumers.

The state has allocated $15.8 million to create Wyoming's Unified Network. It will link eight cities around the state and include upgrades to their broadband capacity.

The state already has a robust fiber optic network, but the equipment that translates that capacity to local systems is limited. Under the Unified Network, local routers will be replaced with equipment designed to handle larger amounts of traffic.

Initially, the beneficiaries of the work will be state agencies and school districts, which will tie directly into the network. But consumers may not be far behind.

"Our logic initially was to help those schools that were hurting the worst, first," said Troy Babbitt.

He is the broadband enterprise architect with the state Department of Enterprise Technology Services.

"But a lot of schools are on track to come on board relatively soon," he added.

Two companies have secured bids to perform the upgrades. National telecom firm CenturyLink will handle connections between Cheyenne, Casper, Sheridan, Jackson, Rock Springs and Laramie. Sheridan-based Advanced Communication Technologies, or ACT, will deal with the connections between Sheridan, Basin and Riverton.

Jeremy Ferkin at CenturyLink said it's hard to describe just how different the Internet experience will be as the new network comes online.

"The network today has been (able to support) 1 gig or 21/2 gigs," Ferkin said. "You're going to 100 gigs. So, 50 times faster at the high-end level. It's revolutionary."

And while the state and schools will be the first to enjoy the higher speeds, Ferkin said businesses and consumers also could benefit.

"Anybody who's working in the state is going to be a benefactor of what we're building," he said.

Babbitt said the project isn't due to start officially until July 1, with the upgrades expected to be done by early fall. But both CenturyLink and ACT already have done some work on their parts of the network.

"We do testing on it to make sure it's capable of supporting the 100 gig capacity," said Aaron Sopko at ACT. "We had a little construction we had to do in Riverton to extend our fiber to the schools. Then we basically have to get our hands on the equipment, install it, turn it up and test it."

Sopko said the routing equipment already has been ordered, and he expects ACT's part of the network to be fully operational by mid-August.

"The students at the schools as well as folks at the state agencies will have a second-to-none network that will not be limited in any way, shape or form," he said.

"Whether it's distance education and learning, streaming video and communicating via video, they'll have sufficient capacity to do that."

The added capacity will also give local Internet service providers an incentive to reinvest in their own local equipment to take advantage of the faster speeds.

But Sopko said any increases in consumer Internet speeds likely will be dependent on whether and when their local provider chooses to make that investment.

Still, Babbitt said it only makes sense that private providers would want to piggyback on the state's expanded broadband capacity.

He said his office has been reaching out to them to promote the network's advantages.

"As we disconnect some of these older, slower technologies, we're trying to renegotiate with service providers to get connected back in at a better rate," Babbitt said.

"It's an open bidding process, and we've tried to make it open and transparent to all (providers) that are building throughout Wyoming."

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(c)2014 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.)

Visit Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.) at www.wyomingnews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, WY)


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