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Broward County rolls out its own fiber ring, shifts to VoIP

Pat Simes, Assistant CIO of Broward County, Florida. | Jan. 27, 2015
Years in the making, network upgrade enables Florida county to improve services while saving a bundle.

The network provides voice, video and data links to 21 buildings throughout Broward County and the agencies they house. It also supports hundreds of County programs and application services to employees and residents, such as Broward.org (our web-site), on-line payments for taxes, licenses, water bills, etc., and everything from E-Permits to the County payroll System and Human Services.

The fiber network can also serve as a connection point for wireless radios and antennas that can be deployed throughout the county to offer wireless Internet services to areas that don't have broadband wireline services today. While we have not yet leveraged the capability, the objective was to build-in the basic interconnectivity infrastructure while we could.

When the project kicked off, the carrier communication services/product contract expired within 18 months of project start. If the network was not installed, tested and operational by the time the contract expired, the County would be on a month-to-month rate at an additional 50% price for hundreds of voice and data circuits. In fact, some services were not available on a month-to-month plan and would require at least a one year contract, committing the County to duplicate costs.

To lessen the risk, we partnered with the Traffic Engineering Division and Florida's Department of Transportation (DOT) to run our fiber at the time they were running new fiber of their own, and they agreed to allow us to use some of their excess capacity if we got into a jam, lessening the contract risk.

The fiber optic project was budgeted at $2.8M, which consisted of a capital cost allocation of $0.25M for engineering services, $0.75M for optical network equipment and $1.8M for construction and infrastructure. As a pragmatic heuristic, 10% of the cost of the fiber would be used for operational maintenance. That would, of course, include fiber cuts, but the only cuts we've experienced to date have been paid by the company that damaged the fiber.

When all was said and done, the fiber network was built for less than $2.5M, some $300,000 below budget, and saves the County about $750,000 per year in line costs. What's more, it set us for another upgrade: a shift to IP Telephony.

IP TELEPHONY

When we crafted the 3-year strategic plan we knew that the County's phone systems would have to be either upgraded or replaced. After analysis, the County elected to replace the systems with a solution that could leverage the new data network infrastructure. Several systems were analyzed for functionality, compatibility, technology, initial costs, operating costs, integration with the email system, and existing data communication infrastructure.

The ETS Communications team ultimately implemented an IP-based telephone system that was homed in two "hardened facilities," one a data center and at a secondary backup site for redundancy.

 

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