2018-05-13 / Insight

Lapeer County ISD’s fiber network growing

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Chuck Madden, the Lapeer County Intermediate School District’s (ISD) Coordinator of Technical Service, told the Lapeer County Board of Commissioners last year that the ISD’s fiber network is in “a constant state of maintenance and expansion.” 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich Chuck Madden, the Lapeer County Intermediate School District’s (ISD) Coordinator of Technical Service, told the Lapeer County Board of Commissioners last year that the ISD’s fiber network is in “a constant state of maintenance and expansion.” Photo by Andrew Dietderich MAYFIELD TWP. — When the Lapeer County Intermediate School District’s fiber optic network went live in 1994, officials celebrated connecting the county’s high schools with 45 miles of lightning-fast transmission lines.

It was just the beginning.

Today, the network is more than double its original size, allowing various entities that keep the county running access to much-needed infrastructure.

The network hooks in with five (St. Clair, Genesee, Sanilac, Tuscola, and Oakland) of the six counties surrounding Lapeer County.

About 40 organizations connect directly to the network.

And a full-time staff oversees the network in case of an outage – and to keep costs down.

“This network has been continually expanding, it’s been growing,” said Chuck Madden, the Lapeer County Intermediate School District’s (ISD) Coordinator of Technical Service. Madden provided an update to the Lapeer County Board of Commissioners last year.

Madden said goals including building fiber optic network “rings” around the city of Lapeer, Imlay City and the village of Metamora. Once a connection is made between Metamora and Dryden, Madden said, the network will have a ring around the county.

“We’ve been upgrading it,” Madden said. “We’re always in a constant state of maintenance and expansion.”

What is a fiber optic network?

Simply put, fiber optic cables consist of tiny strands of glass that can carry large amounts of data over long distances.

Such networks are a big deal because they offer nearly unlimited potential for speed and capacity, making it the preferred technology to deliver internet, TV, and phone.

Most fiber-to-the-business (FTTB) or fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections currently offer download speeds at 1 gigabit per second, which is about 200 times the speed of a standard DSL connection, and about 20 times the speed offered by cable modem.

Not only is it fast, but it lasts. That’s because it has much lower maintenance and operating costs than other technologies, which is why many broadband providers are choosing to make the investment in fiber optic networks.

According to a 2015 report from I-69 Thumb Region called “Fiber Optics: Vision for the I-69 Thumb Region,” the benefits to residents are numerous and include an improved experience when using technology and increased property values. The report says a fiber connection can improve a home’s value by as much as $6,000.

Businesses benefit, the report states, by being able to offer more training options, faster speeds, and improved security.

According to a report from Lapeer County ISD “the district built and operates a fiber optic network that connects the local school districts in the county. The network also includes non-public schools, the public school academy, county government, county libraries, and law enforcement. Because of this partnership, the cost of operation of the network is more affordable for all participants. For all partners within the fiber network, there is a significant improvement in the delivery of internet, instructional and administrative resources at a reasonable cost.”

“We’re always taking these things into consideration – where our network is, where it may need to go, and how it can help everybody in the future,” Madden said. “What this does is it really keeps costs down, it affords us security, and it affords the expansion of other services that we may not even thing about right now.”

“Really, there’s no limitations to what this network could do,” Madden said.

The Lapeer County ISD fiber optic network launched for the 1994-95 school year.

The first mission was to connect the high schools in Lapeer County. Madden said the primary purpose was to foster growth of distance learning in the area.

“We had about eight location on our original build of about 45 miles,” Madden told the county board last year.

Madden said conversations with the county about joining the network began shortly thereafter.

It wasn’t until 1999, however, when a grant was awarded through the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.

“With that, we were able to leverage our existing infrastructure and build three locations with the COPS grant,” Madden said.

Those three facilities were Lapeer County Central Dispatch, the Almont Police Dept., and Dryden Police Dept.

Madden said they “were directly connected back to our fiber network from our high schools.”

Madden said the network is truly a reflection of organizations throughout Lapeer County working together.

“A lot of this collaboration has been built on the trust that we have built between the ISD and the county government,” Madden said. “These things do not happen in every county, I can tell you that right now.”

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