Grand Forks businesses may benefit from fibre network

A business plan for phase two on the fibre optic network will determine if the city and school board can sell its services to local businesses.
The fibre optic network steering committee, which consists of the city’s chief administrative officer and the chief financial officer, have worked to get the fibre optic network set up and running over the last 18 months.
The steering committee believes that there is marketable potential for the fibre optic network, which will benefit taxpayers, noted the Chief Administrative Officer Lynne Burch.
The pitch would start with some of the bigger businesses, such as Community Futures Boundary, Chamber of Commerce and possibly the credit union, said Superintendent of Schools Michael Strukoff.
“What we’re looking to package is backup (servers), VOIP (voice over Internet protocol), web hosting and because it’d be in Canada, they wouldn’t have to look for backup services for their data,” he said. “We’re looking to see if that’s a viable thing for us to do for a fee. The CRTC license we have from the city excludes those.”
Burch pointed out that there is a business plan that is being developed but nothing is set in stone. She added that there isn’t too much information to announce at this point. The first phase of the fibre optic network has been successfully installed in a joint collaboration between the City of Grand Forks and School District 51 (SD51).
Burch explained that the Fibre Optic Cable Network Joint Use Agreement, which is a collaborative project between the city of Grand Forks and School District 51, is essentially high-speed Internet.
“The network has allowed us to connect to all of our different sites: city hall, all the fire halls and public works yards,” she said. “It’s allowed us to connect all of those. It’s also allowed the schools to connect to all their buildings as well.”
Strukoff is happy with the abilities of the networking.
“It’s working really well for the school system in Grand Forks right now and secondarily for the West Boundary because they’re not on the fibre link but they do have access to the centralized technology centre that we have,” explained Strukoff. “We have made the transition, we’ve got better speeds inside and phase one of the operational side of it has gone well for us and the city. The things that we’ve said we’d be sharing we are and things are going well.”
The school board is still currently finalizing the installation of VOIP phones in several schools, but the city’s phones have been set up.
The network allows SD51 and the city to share computer knowledge, including email and backup servers, as well as document storage facilities.
“The really expensive part is the control room and the software. We purchased it together and we’re sharing it, and we only have to buy one instead of two,” said Strukoff.
The fibre optics network project has been made possible with funding provided by the School Connectivity Program and by Western Economic Diversification funding.
Capital contributions from the school district and the city in the amount of $250,000 each were also provided.
“The partnership is going really well. The only challenge we’re going to have is the transition,” Strukoff added. “Two senior people at the city, one has left for another job and the other will be retiring (former Chief Financial Officer Cecile Arnott and Burch), I’ll be retiring, so the catch will be the transition and getting the new people on board.”
Burch agreed, “The partnership is working really well with the school district and it’s a really technical project.”
The fibre optics network program began in December 2010 when city staff and SD51 staff collaborated to connect the school district and city facilities with high-speed fibre optic network capability. The network was finally completed this year, with the district and city co-operating on managing and creating the network.

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