In a move long anticipated by some in the Arlington business community, the Arlington County Board approved the licensing of its ConnectArlington fiber optic network to private businesses.
The “dark fiber” will first be installed along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Glebe Road, on Columbia Pike and in Crystal City. It’s currently used to connect county government and schools facilities at “unprecedented” internet speeds, but, within a few months, businesses will be able to take advantage.
“This is an exciting step forward in Arlington’s plan to be a technological hub in our region,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “Arlington’s strategic investments are building a technology infrastructure second to none, that will help us attract the businesses of the 21st century. Just as Arlington had the foresight to insist that Metro be built under the heart of our commercial corridors, it had the foresight, when building ConnectArlington, to build in additional capacity to meet future needs — for our businesses and County government.”
The first phase of expanding the program — adding fiber strands to the first 10-mile stretch in the county’s prime economic areas — is expected to cost $4.1 million up front, with a continuing $700,000-$800,000 operating cost.
Phase II of the program would add fiber to Shirlington, Lee Highway and western Columbia Pike, as well as run the fiber next to Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon (the red line in the map to the right). This stretch won’t be installed until the county evaluates the performance of Phase I.
County Board member Jay Fisette spoke to ARLnow.com in October about ConnectArlington, one of the initiatives he pushed last year for his economic competitiveness platform as board chairman.
“Innovation is not restricted to the private sector,” he said. “The capacity we’re putting into the network and making it accessible is an asset and competitive advantage over other jurisdictions.”
One of the speakers at Saturday’s County Board meeting, Jaroslav Flidr, said he works for the University of Maryland providing “services on top of dark fiber.” He praised the county for their decision, saying it has positioned itself for landing significant future office development.
“We have federal agencies like NASA, NIH and NSF [as clients],” Flidr told the Board. “In my experience, when these agencies look for where to locate future development, access to assets like dark fiber is, in their mind, one of their most important factors in their decision-making process; where to go, where to stay, where to relocate.”
Angela Fox, CEO of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, also lauded the program as an economic boon to the county.
“We can use this as an economic development tool to attract businesses to the area,” Fox said. “We want things like this, we need things like this, because it is a vicious market. We need tools in our toolbox to demonstrate why Arlington is a place they should be doing business.”
The county will license 864 strands of fiber to individual buildings and businesses, hicho can install connections to its lines and promote is as an asset, according to the staff report. The connections to the fiber must remain inside Arlington, to ensure it benefits the county and not one of its regional competitors. Each company can license a maximum of 40 strands at at time.
The county will charge licensing fees and recoup its costs, it says, but doesn’t yet have revenue projections because it’s unclear how the market will respond to the new, high-tech infrastructure.
Map (bottom) via Arlington Economic Development. Disclosure: The Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
Arlington County has announced that it is expanding ConnectArlington, its high-speed fiber optic program that connects county government and school buildings, and making it available to Arlington businesses.
The county’s unused fiber optic capacity, or “dark fiber,” will provide not only significantly faster data speeds for businesses — the county says the speed is “unprecedented” — but also a more secure connection that can be used between contractors and federal agencies like the Pentagon.
Officials expect the program to provide an economic boost to the county.
“Arlington will be the only place for businesses to receive this level of service and security and will be the only place offering such dedicated lines to the nation’s top defense and research organizations,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “The opportunities ConnectArlington gives Arlington businesses are endless; we anticipate this game-changing infrastructure will attract jobs and innovative investments to our community.”
When ConnectArlington was installed for county businesses and services in 2012, the county said it will improve traffic management, public transportation and 911 response time.
Companies will be able to lease the dark fiber over the next year as Arlington works with a third-party consultant to make “the service easily available,” according to the press release. The full rollout is expected to be complete by early 2015.
Being able to use the county’s existing fiber capacity will provide businesses with connectivity that would otherwise have been prohibitively expensive and/or logistically complicated to get on their own.
The full press release, after the jump. (more…)
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Flickr pool photo by Christaki
So far, about one-third of what will be 60 miles of line has been installed in sections stretching from Clarendon to Glebe Road in Ballston, down Glebe Road to Columbia Pike, and east to the Air Force Memorial. The project, which has been dubbed ConnectArlington, will eventually link over 90 individual sites around the county.
The new network will allow for more communication capacity thanks to increased bandwith compared with the old copper lines. In addition to connecting government buildings and structures, officials say it’s designed to improve communications with residents as well.
With the new network, residents will experience improved service for calls to 911. Up until now, the county’s towers for emergency radio communications worked via microwave. Factors like overgrown foliage and bad weather can interfere with microwave signals, but shouldn’t affect the new fiber optic system. The lines also allow for command centers throughout the county that can be activated in case of emergencies.
“Everybody wants to be able to communicate more and more,” said Jack Belcher with the county’s Department of Technology Services. “So the more we can put into this network the better, as far as residents communicating with us.”
The system is also expected to improve traffic management and public transportation with an intelligent transportation system. Such a system should allow for automatic adjustments of signal timing when traffic patterns suddenly change, like during an accident.
Another benefit of the fiber optics is a redundant network. That means a break in one line should still allow information to transfer via another route along the network. Belcher said that will prevent entire buildings from experiencing outages, which sometimes happens under the current system.
Currently, the focus is on wiring what’s considered the infrastructure “backbone” of the system, including nearly 60 traffic signals and 11 public safety ports. The ultimate goal is to add 32 county buildings and 18 Arlington Public Schools buildings to the network. The first stage of that process is slated to begin in fall of 2013.
“The easy part is building the core network, like traffic signals and radio tower,” said Belcher. “The challenge will be expanding to the schools and the county buildings down the road.”
Construction on the first phase is wrapping up, and the next phase, which will include work in Shirlington and Fairlington, is expected to be completed in the spring or summer of next year. The third phase involves various traffic signals north of Route 50. Work on that is expected sometime between 2013 and 2015, pending funding approval.
Photo courtesy Arlington County