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The new South Bay Fiber Network (SBFN) has been launched through a 15-city municipal partnership forged by the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG).

The network enables the municipalities and other public agencies in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County to access a secure 1-gigabyte (GB) network for US$1,000 per month, which is calculated to be around half the cost of typical commercial rates in the area as well as being faster.

The SBFN is set to support enhanced remote working, traffic applications and telehealth, and it is scalable for geographical expansion and smart city and economic development applications.

The city partners are Carson, El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates and Torrance.

Public agencies that will also benefit from access include: Beach Cities Health District, the South Bay Workforce Investment Board (SBWIB), LA Metro Transportation Authority, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, West Basin Municipal Water District and the Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation in Torrance.

Economic development

The SBFN came out of a 2016 economic development initiative, following the departure of some South Bay companies that cited a lack of sufficient broadband infrastructure among their reasons for moving.

A two-year study by Magellan Advisors, commissioned by the SBWIB, concluded that local governments were spending “too much for too little IT service”. One city was paying US$6,000 a month for less than a gigabit of service.

The study resulted in a SBCCOG Request for Proposals (RFP) to lower connectivity costs and ensure that South Bay cities were prepared for future needs.

“One of the things that our organisation does is advanced planning,” Jacki Bacharach, Executive Director, SBCCOG, told Cities Today. “We look at how to help cities in the future because they’re working day-to-day.”

In 2019, American Dark Fiber was awarded the contract to build the network which is a ‘fibre ring’ connecting to the Internet at two local data centres. A total of 22 sites are now connected and running on the network, with another dozen sites set to join over the next few months.

Dave Daigle, CEO, American Dark Fiber, said the most cost-effective and sustainable approach for the cities was a “hybrid solution” that includes leasing existing third-party fibre and building new fibre where necessary – making the most of available ‘fibre-conducive’ city infrastructure such as traffic control conduits, streetlighting conduits, sewer systems, etc.

Funding

SBCCOG funded the capital costs of the SBFN through use of US$6.9 million in Los Angeles Metro Measure M sales tax transportation improvement funds. The proposal received pushback initially with some arguing that broadband did not constitute a transport project but it was ultimately passed.

Therefore, as well as reducing costs, the broadband infrastructure must also demonstrate transport-related benefits.

The cities say the network will result in more “trips not taken” through supporting telecommuting and more digital municipal services. The importance of these capabilities has also been highlighted during the pandemic.

Real-time traffic information from LA County’s Information Exchange Network (IEN) will also be available for each participating agency. In partnership with Metro’s Regional Integration of Intelligent Transportation Systems (RIITS), South Bay cities will be able to combine and share transportation data as a resource for congestion management, improved transit services and to support transportation demand-management (TDM) programmes.

In addition, the network paves the way for autonomous vehicles (AV) by supporting vehicle-to-network and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

Health services are also a priority. Beach Cities Health District and Lundquist Institute for Biomedical Innovation will be the first to use the network for telehealth applications such as remote diagnostics and video appointments. This could be expanded to other healthcare providers in future.

The network aims to enable the cities to more easily install municipal Wi-Fi in public spaces, parks and buildings. For example, the city of Gardena is using a 1GB transport circuit from City Hall to upgrade connectivity at its Rowley Park. The enhanced Wi-Fi service allows a daycare programme based there to support virtual classes, etc.

Expansion

SBCCOG is now exploring how the broadband infrastructure could provide a foundation to further close the digital divide for businesses and residents, including spurring more private investment.

“The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the importance of investing in the technology that makes telehealth, tele-education and telecommerce possible,” Janice Hahn, LA County Supervisor and member of the SBCCOG Board of Directors, said. “By bringing a fibre network to our city halls, the South Bay has leaped ahead of the curve by creating the possibility of the eventual extension of a low-cost, comprehensive network to our residents and businesses throughout the South West Los Angeles region.”

Joseph Carella, Senior Broadband Consultant at Magellan Advisors, which has worked closely with the SBCCOG and SBWIB throughout the network’s planning and implementation, said that although other cities elsewhere have tried to work together to deploy regional networks: “A key attribute of success here is the SBCCOG’s leadership role in co-ordinating 15 independent entities.”

Daigle agreed that this alignment was critical, saying that otherwise it can be difficult for cities to co-ordinate their requirements and timelines.

While the SBCCOG acts as an aggregator for infrastructure, the cities retain local control over their Internet services, Bacharach said.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Sarah Wray

Quelle/Source: Cities Ttoday, 09.12.2020

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