As Community Unit District 300 builds a fiber-optic cable network connecting its 27 schools, some local communities are finding out they can tap into that resource and save money in the process.
Soon to benefit will be patrons of the Algonquin Area Public Library, whose Eastgate Street location is expected to have much faster Internet access by the end of the year under a new intergovernmental agreement between the library and the district, library Director Lynn Elam said. The library's Harnish Drive location should follow suit early next year, she said.
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Download speeds at the library will shoot up to 100 megabits per second from the current 6 mbps, Elam said. She hopes work to connect the library to the district's network will begin as soon as permits are ready. "We're looking at getting it done before the ground is frozen, to be up and running by end of year," she said.
Capital and leasing costs paid to the school district will amount to $108,000, Elam said. Ongoing maintenance costs will be "insignificant," she added.
"The cost of doing this on our own would be $300,000, give or take. It would just be out of our reach to create a fiber-optic connection on our own at this time," she said. "It makes so much economic sense to piggyback onto the school district because they have they infrastructure."
Elam said that most neighboring municipalities, including Algonquin, Huntley, and Crystal Lake, are considering establishing similar agreements with the district.
District 300 Chief Technology Officer Eric Willard said the district has intergovernmental agreements with Carpentersville and Hoffman Estates, in addition to the Algonquin library. As for others, Willard would only say the district is in discussions with "about half a dozen entities" in Kane and McHenry counties.
The objective is to save money for all parties, whether the district taps into existing fiber-optic cable networks or vice versa, and bring access wherever possible, he said. The district began designing its fiber-optic cable plan about four years ago.
"The general concept is let each other use the fiber, and minimize the costs," Willard said.
In Carpentersville, for example, as Dundee-Crown High School is connected to Carpentersville Middle School, the route was modified to run by village hall instead of along Route 25 -- technically the most direct route -- to accommodate access for the village, he said.
Hoffman Estates is using a portion of cables that District 300 is leasing along Interstate 90 from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, Willard said.
Gordon Eaken, director of information systems for Hoffman Estates, said the agreement, established around 2009, allows the village to pay $40 a month for each mbps, compared to the $300 it used to pay for 1.5 mbps in the past. "It's a real economy of scale," he said. "It brought us to the point where we can look at cloud computing. That was not very affordable for local governments until a few years ago."
Fiber-optic cable costs between $80,000 to $100,00 per mile, Willard said. District 300's project is estimated to be completed in three to five years, and will include about 35 miles of cable overall, he said.