Collaboration enables city to build WAN
Three years ago, Portland, Ore., officials were working to expand Internet-based functions, while also struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for bandwidth. That demand was growing at a rate of 100 percent a year, and the cost of delivering the high-speed network within city government was escalating at a rate of 10 to 30 percent a year.
Applications for cable and telecommunications franchise agreements also were increasing, and Portland officials quickly realized a solution to their problems regarding bandwidth. To expedite the franchise applications and help the city prepare for future growth, Portland required any communications service provider seeking to use city rights of way to place conduit alongside their underground facilities for the city’s future use. Then, to determine the best way to use the newly added resources, Portland’s Communication and Networking Services Division (ComNet) commissioned a citywide network study, with the help of locally based engineering firm W&H Pacific.
Through the study, officially known as the Integrated Regional Network Enterprise (IRNE), ComNet would assess the metro area’s immediate telecommunications needs and identify assets that would assist with future network expansion and demand. The IRNE addressed the following questions: * What level of access do government agencies have to carriers and e-commerce highways? * Where are the carrier pipes? * Are they where government agencies and customers need them? * Are they big enough? * Is the infrastructure deployed to the right geography? and * Is the infrastructure inside buildings capable of delivering powerful network connections?
The study identified approximately $5 million worth of city-owned cable assets that could serve government offices. However, much of the conduit was unused or lacked the continuity necessary for the city’s use.
Portland then began leveraging its franchise agreements with its various telecommunications providers to build a city-owned wide-area network (WAN). It had to find a way to connect its patchwork of conduit in order to create a downtown network loop that could serve more than 300 government offices, including emergency and transportation services.
In 1997, officials began negotiating with telecommunications companies to place cable where it would be most useful to the city’s network and to help connect the existing cables, in exchange for future franchise rights. The city also began collaborating with other agencies – including the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Portland Department of Transportation and Tri-Met, the regional light rail and bus authority – to assist with building the WAN.
The city’s WAN is currently under construction. When it is completed in 2002, the city will have one $13 million to $20 million multipurpose network and will have spent less than $500,000 on infrastructure. Eventually, the network will deliver data, voice and video services to every city office.
This article was written by Nancy Jesuale, director of the Communication and Networking Services Division for Portland, Ore.