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Community fiber collaborations continue to flourish

During the fiscal year, the Engineering unit within ITS Communication Technologies continued to lead and participate in community fiber collaborations. These efforts have resulted in new fiber connectivity initiatives — and have paved the way for future opportunities — that save money, improve bandwidth and reliability, increase flexibility and enable new business prospects.






Nine local government entities within Orange County participate in multiple community fiber connectivity initiatives. CommTech Engineering represents the University in certain of these endeavors through multiple fiber exchange memorandums of understanding (MOUs).

UNC-Chapel Hill now has fiber exchange MOUs in place with the town of Chapel Hill, the town of Carrboro and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. Talks are in the works to develop MOUs with additional local government entities.

In one such collaboration, the town of Carrboro fiber and UNC-Chapel Hill fiber were jointly used to extend the campus network and telephony services to the new UNC Horizons facility on North Greensboro Street in Carrboro.

Likewise, the town of Chapel Hill and the University joined forces to assist Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools with a connection from Phillips Middle School and Estes Drive Elementary School to the Lincoln Center central office on south Merritt Mill Road.

Other recent fiber connectivity successes include:

  • McDougle Middle School and Elementary School to Lincoln Center
  • Carrboro Elementary School to Lincoln Center
  • Northside Elementary School to Lincoln Center
  • TEACCH, CIDD and FPG Child Development (Sheryl-Marr) to UNC-Chapel Hill campus (available in the fourth quarter of 2018)
  • UNC Arts and Sciences Foundation, 523 E. Franklin St., to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus
  • Chapel Hill Fire Department Museum, Meadowmont, to Chapel Hill Town Hall

Craig Baker

Each year of community fiber collaboration yields new benefits to the MOU participants. Over the past year, the town of Chapel Hill and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools have reduced operating costs by avoiding recurring fees for commercial connectivity for remote campuses to central offices, said Craig Baker, Engineering Manager with CommTech Engineering. Sharing community fiber also benefit the participants through new levels of redundant connectivity, route diversity and operational flexibility.

“In an age of shifting economies and fast-paced technological change, a small city like Chapel Hill depends on collaborative support,” Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil said before he retired in September 2018. “Fostering a strong relationship with UNC-Chapel Hill continues to be vital for our community as we share infrastructure and collaborate on the delivery of next-generation services.”

Stancil demonstrated tremendous leadership in the fiber collaborations. “While many residents don’t really think about it, fiber communication is a critical piece of our infrastructure,” he said. “This nearly invisible network connects computers, phones, applications, email and the internet. The town-gown collaboration we have enjoyed provides the bandwidth, infrastructure redundancy and options to share resources including backup sites and services.”

With financial savings and a proven concept of community fiber sharing, future expansions of fiber infrastructure are now possible. The University and the other participants in these fiber collaborations envision a county-wide fiber connectivity backbone from Cedar Grove to Southern Village.

As part of that larger goal, CommTech Engineering and the other fiber participants are collaborating on multiple projects. The University, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the town of Carrboro are working together on a significant strategic connectivity plan to interconnect “dead-end” community fiber trunks adjacent to the Chapel Hill High School campus. In about three years, Carrboro’s dead-end trunk at its Fire Station 2 will connect to the University’s dead-end fiber at the Carolina Center for Educational Excellence in the Smith Middle School complex.

Roger Stancil

Through recent collaborations, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, the town of Carrboro and UNC-Chapel Hill have agreed to pursue crucial fiber in conjunction with the school system’s renovation of Chapel Hill High School. This project will provide a long-awaited solution for redundancy and route diversity for each of the three partners.

The town of Chapel Hill and the University are also working on a joint development agreement to share the site of Chapel Hill’s new Municipal Services Center on Estes Drive and construct buildings over multiple phases. The town’s IT department, led by CIO Scott Clark, and ITS CommTech are discussing optical fiber infrastructure to support critical operational needs. The town and the University have significant fiber resources on and adjacent to the Giles Horney complex.

The University also is collaborating with Orange County and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro on a proposal to interconnect the Orange County Skills Development Center on West Franklin Street and the Orange County Library in Carrboro. They’re also discussing a future connection to the Orange County fiber backbone to Hillsborough and beyond.

In addition, Orange County and the other local government entities are continuing to discuss potential fiber connections as the county moves toward the 2020 start of construction of their strategic fiber master plan between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill. This significant undertaking, Baker said, would lead to numerous connectivity solutions among all nine public entities in the county, and would usher in opportunities for heretofore impossible solutions, bandwidth, cost savings, new business opportunities, flexibility and reliability.

Key Partner(s): Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Orange County, Town of Carrboro, Town of Chapel Hill
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