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Missoula Schools Set To Save With Self-Provisioning
The Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) plans to save $150,000 per year by investing in its own fiber infrastructure. Over a 20-year period school officials expect to save approximately $3 million.
Fiber For Education And Savings
MCPS will be the first in the state to self-provision its wide area network (WAN), the connections between district facilities. Right now, the school pays approximately $287,000 per year to lease its WAN connections and for Internet access; about $200,000 of that figure is dedicated to leasing the WAN.
School officials were already leasing lit fiber service when they began investigating options to compare cost and service. They also looked at leasing dark fiber, which would mean they would need to maintain the equipment to light the fiber themselves, and investing in an Indefeasible Right of Use (IRU). The IRU would give the school district the ability to use a designated number of fiber strands to use as they wished for a fixed period of time.
As other school districts around the country are discovering, the best choice for them was to own the infrastructure and control it themselves:
"We're saving the district $3 million over the next 20 years in the general fund that will be able to be allocated to other things," Littman said of self-provisioned fiber. "It's more than $3 million, actually. The reason we say we'll only end up saving the general fund $3 million in the end is because we do have some annual maintenance costs to incur to protect the fiber."
Leasing lit fiber for the speeds MCPS needs would have cost $1.5 million to $3.1 million for only a five-year contract. A dark fiber 10-year contract would have cost about $3 million.
Right now, the school pays approximately $287,000 per year to lease its WAN connections and for Internet access; about $200,000 of that figure is dedicated to leasing the WAN. The school will still need to contract for Internet access from an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Lake Oswego Schools Opting For Dark Fiber
Lake Oswego School District (LOSD) in Oregon is set to make an investment that will save up to $301,000 per year in telecommunications costs - its own dark fiber network.
To Lease Or To Own? There Is No Question!
LOSD is the latest in a string of local schools that have chosen to invest in fiber infrastructure for long-term savings. Caswell County, North Carolina, is also investing in dark fiber with an eye on the future. Because the school district will own the network, they will no longer be surprised by unexpected rate hikes, making budgeting easier. The money they save can be directed toward other programs and, because it is dark fiber, they are only restricted by the equipment they install and the bandwidth agreements they enter into with Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Some schools choose to become ISPs themselves or join collaborations in which they can purchase bandwidth collectively to save even more.
According to Joe Forelock, the district’s assistant superintendent for academic and student services, “This is a long-term investment for the health of the district over the next many, many years.” Once the network is in place, it will cost approximately $36,720 annually to maintain it, which is 89 percent less than what Comcast plans to charge LOSD for the 2016 - 2017 school year.
We want to note that Comcast tripled their rates from the 2015 - 16 school year, in part because the 2016 - 17 contract was only for a year while the dark fiber network is being constructed. With no competition in the region, Comcast has broad practical authority to decide what LOSD will pay. “Right now, Comcast is essentially the only game in town in many communities," Morelock says, "including LO."
Clackamas County will install the $1.54 million network; 40 percent of the total cost will be reimbursed through E-rate, the federal program for schools that pays for Internet access and certain infrastructure expenses.
“After six years, if costs remain the same and do not increase, or decrease for that matter, the district will save $181,000 per year in connectivity costs with the E-rate discount, or $301,000 per year if E-rate were to disappear,” Morelock says.
Connecting In Clackamas
Lake Oswego Seeks Out Expert Advice: Video
Lake Oswego, Oregon, was pegged as a potential target for Google Fiber in 2014 but this town of 35,000 may not wait for the tech giant to bring fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. They may just do it themselves.
In order to get more information about municipal fiber networks, our Chris Mitchell visited during an October City Council meeting at the request of community leaders. The Lake Oswego Review covered the meeting.
According to the Review, the northwest community issued an RFP in June and received two responses. City leaders are still pondering the responses and feelings are mixed over whether or not to make the investment.
City Manager Scott Lazenby told the Council:
Just getting this network would put Lake Oswego on the map…I think increasing that level of service, especially for the demographics we have here — highly educated, many tech-oriented folks in our community — that would be a real service to make available.
Chris pointed out that the area is ripe with a number of high-tech companies and other entities that will find a fiber network attractive. “Not everyone has that regional connectivity that you have here,” he told the Council.
He also asked them to consider all the long term possibilities if Google does eventually enter into the market in Lake Oswego:
“When I think about relying on Google, if Google decides to get out of this business, the community has no say about who takes it over,” he said.
After discussion, the Council voted to negotiate an agreement with one of the RFP respondents for further review, contingent on a market study.
To view Chris's entire presentation to the Lake Oswego City Council, watch the video below: