Aurora council wants more study of using ComEd poles to expand fiber optic network

Written by Steve Lord, Aurora Beacon-News. July 11, 2018. Aurora council wants more study of using ComEd poles to expand fiber optic network


Aurora aldermen want to take a closer look at a plan to use ComEd poles for the expansion of the city’s fiber optic network.

Council members voted to send to the City Council Finance Committee a proposal to lease some of the electric utility’s poles to expand the city’s fiber optic network, most notably to the Aurora Municipal Airport in Sugar Grove.

Using the poles means the city would mount the fiber optic for the first time aerially, rather than burying it. Aldermen decided that is a change that needed more study.

“Have we decided we want to abandon the fact we are 100 percent underground?” said Ald. Rick Mervine, 8th Ward. “I would love to be able to get fiber out there (to the airport). But if we start putting the fiber on poles, we are subject to the same problems as the electric – weather, trees falling …”

The actual proposal before the council was to approve an agreement between ComEd and the city for use of the poles.

Michael Pegues, Aurora’s chief information technology officer, said there is no specific proposal for leasing the poles yet. Consequently, aldermen were not approving spending any actual money.

“First, we need to get the contract signed,” Pegues said.

For that reason, he brought it forward as new business on the council agenda, without taking it through the council’s committee structure.

But aldermen were more concerned that putting the fiber optic on poles, rather than burying it, was a policy change that needed more council study.

That is particularly true, aldermen said, because in addition to getting fiber optic to the airport, city technology officials also proposed to use poles to bring fiber across River Street from the Aurora Public Library to the businesses on the first floor of the River Street condos.

“The point here is that new elements are coming in,” said Ald. Robert O’Connor, at large. “It’s not that we’re necessarily going to have problems with it. We didn’t have the opportunity to discuss it.”

Aldermen already have approved extending fiber to the businesses on the first floor of the River Street condos. That is in keeping with the city’s policy of wiring businesses, public buildings and educational facilities.

But the city’s contractor that installs the fiber said they could save $15,000 on wiring River Street if they used the ComEd poles downtown rather than bury the cable underneath the street.

Pegues said “there is no policy about how we do fiber,” and using poles rather than burying the cable is “a business decision.”

But he said later he supported O’Connor’s desire to have the Finance Committee review the idea, so it would give him a chance to explain it and give an overview of using poles.

If the city wants to get fiber optic to the airport, the poles seem the most likely option. The airport is five miles from the closest connection for the city. There are 128 ComEd poles between that connection and the airport.

Tech officials told aldermen it would likely cost between $800,000 and $1 million to bury the cable all the way to the airport, but likely between $400,000 and $500,000 to use the poles.

It’s also projected that it would cost the city $3,800 a year to rent the poles from ComEd.

SMART CITY NETWORK IGNITES ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND NETWORK EXPANSION OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN ILLINOIS’ SECOND LARGEST CITY


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eX² Technology, a single source solution for those seeking to build, scale or upgrade their communications infrastructure, announced the execution of an agreement with OnLight Aurora, a community fiber Internet service provider and an Illinois not-for-profit serving the City of Aurora and parts of Kane and DuPage counties, to commercialize the communications infrastructure assets owned by both OnLight Aurora and Kane County.

OnLight Aurora, a nationally recognized municipal network model, is a highly secure and reliable fiber network that offers dark fiber and symmetrical Internet bandwidth from a 100% underground fiber backbone. The network architecture comprises a 10 Gig Metro Ethernet fiber infrastructure that offers cost-effective fiber connection options, including self-healing rings, point-to-point, DWDM lit services and dark fiber.

“By commercializing OnLight Aurora’s untapped communications capacity, we are helping the City of Aurora establish a new source of revenue that may potentially increase the return of its initial capital investment,” said Jim Kawamoto, president and chief financial officer, eX² Technology. “It’s the citizens of Aurora that will ultimately benefit from a successfully executed marketing program.”

eX² Technology services will include marketing and leasing dark fiber, conduit, laterals and network access points on an open market basis.

“Our goal is to foster economic development and organizational collaboration throughout the city and the region,” said Keith L. Gerald, executive director, OnLight Aurora. “By offering access to the OnLight Aurora network at competitive prices, we are minimizing market entry barriers and providing broadband connectivity opportunities for businesses, Internet service providers, carriers and more.”

About OnLight Aurora

OnLight Aurora is an Illinois not-for-profit that serves the community by providing area businesses highly available and scalable access to the City of Aurora’s fiber optic network. Its services are designed to support and foster economic development growth and promote organizational collaboration through this network. For more information, please visit www.onlightaurora.com/.

About eX² Technology

eX² Technology, LLC is a single source solution for those seeking to build, scale or upgrade their communications infrastructure. We provide robust broadband, critical asset, intelligent transportation and private network solutions and services with greater efficiency, less cost and a streamlined acquisition process.

Aurora looking to become 'regional tech leader'

Written by Steve Lord, Aurora Beacon-News. April 5, 2018. Aurora looking to become 'regional tech leader'


 Aurora Chief Information Officer Michael Pegues explains the “Smart Park” concept for RiverEdge Park. (City of Aurora)

Aurora Chief Information Officer Michael Pegues explains the “Smart Park” concept for RiverEdge Park. (City of Aurora)

Michael Pegues, city of Aurora chief information officer, said his aim for the future of the city is clear.

"Making the city of Aurora a regional tech leader," he said.

The city this year will see RiverEdge Park, the outdoor entertainment venue and park on North Broadway, become a "smart park" — crews have been expanding the city's fiber optic network, Onlight Aurora, throughout the venue.

The infrastructure at the park will be better integrated through technology, which will allow officials to keep better track of crowds, have better security, analyze the environmental situation at all times, keep track of parking lots – both from a security angle and from being able to tell where parking spots are available – have better emergency response and use energy and other resources more efficiently, Pegues said.

He said the "smart park" will be a better way to get people into Aurora and see what the city has to offer, as well as a way to develop technology initiatives throughout the city.

"I call it a gateway," he said.

Aurora is a finalist to be named a "smart city" by the Smart Cities Coalition in Washington, D.C.

But even if it doesn't get that designation this year, city officials are determined to turn Aurora into a technology hub for years to come. Pegues said that effort starts with the city's fiber optic network, and extends through the entire city operation and into the community.

"Fiber is the fourth utility," he said. "The fiber optic network is an asset that we have. It's a smart investment that we use less than 3 percent of."

The city has started with its own operation, using its technology department to develop programs to read water meters, to help the city's financial management and to better communicate in the area of public safety.

This year, the city is developing a system for better record-keeping and communication between all the development-related departments, as well as with the development community.

But the "smart park" work, as well as the smart city initiative altogether, also has a money-making aspect for the city. At RiverEdge Park, kiosks will give the city a chance to make money from advertising, as well as communicate quickly to the public.

"I want to look at using our assets to generate revenue," Pegues said. "If we set this smart city up, we could share with Naperville, North Aurora. We can say, hey, township, you can use our system."

Eventually, the fiber optic network would sell to business institutions and possible even to households.

Mayor Richard Irvin said the effect of an up-to-date technology department at the city has already shown that it can help with the city's financial health. In his State of the City address this week, Irvin praised the IT department under Pegues with saving $2.3 million through renegotiating license agreements and other things.

A Downers Grove-based trade association, CompTIA, which monitors technology business, said in a recent report that the Chicago metropolitan area added more than 4,000 technology jobs in 2017.

It was a 1.4 percent increase from 2016, ranking Chicago 13th among major metropolitan areas in job growth in the tech sector.

Aurora is positioning itself as sort of a tech hub in the region. It already has activity near the CyrusOne data center at Eola and Diehl Roads, and that includes the new headquarters for Scientel Solutions Inc., which will be built across from CyrusOne this year.

This past week, Irvin and Pegues attended the 2018 Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo in Kansas City at which they discussed and learned about "Smart City" best practices.

For the future, Pegues is planning to set up a cyber security team for the city that could also be available to look at cyber security issues throughout the city. He also plans to make it possible for people to file Freedom of Information Act requests online, and even directly access city data that one might be seeking through FOIA online.

The city is looking at public-private partnerships, and possibly extending fiber optic and smart technology to the Aurora Municipal Airport.

The effort is in the early stages, officials said.

"This is a phased project, and we're at phase zero," Pegues said.

Aurora looks to expand fiber optic network downtown

Written by Steve Lord, Aurora Beacon-News. February 26, 2018. Aurora looks to expand fiber optic network downtown


The city of Aurora is looking to expand its fiber optic network further through downtown, thanks to a grant from the downtown tax increment financing district.

Aldermen are set to vote on $75,000 from the downtown TIF to pay for connecting commercial properties to OnLight Aurora. The council will vote at its full meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers, City Hall, 44 E. Downer Place.

The properties to be connected include the new Aurora Arts Center; the Paramount Theatre; North Island Center; businesses along Stolp Avenue; businesses along River Street, between Benton Street and Downer Place; the former West Aurora School District administration building at River and Benton streets; and the Family Counseling Center.

Michael Pegues, Aurora's chief information officer, said hooking those properties onto the fiber network will allow further development and reuse of both vacant and occupied commercial spaces.

OnLight Aurora has received grants before to extend service into areas that are not covered, or in some cases, bringing the network into a building. The last such grant was connecting River Street commercial properties, which is to be finished soon.

Pegues recently told aldermen originally the $75,000 was budgeted to connect the Aurora Arts Center, which is being built in the former Waubonsee Community College building at Stolp and Galena Boulevard.

He said it was cheaper to do the Arts Center than first thought, so "all that other work was done with the $75,000 originally just for the Aurora Arts Center."

OnLight Aurora now has more than 82 miles of fiber optics.

Aldermen also are scheduled to vote on a $275,000 professional services agreement with National Technologies to do the first audit on the fiber network.

Pegues told aldermen they chose National Technologies because they have been the only fiber installation, repair and maintenance company to work on the network since 2015. They not only know the system, they know the coding they have used for wiring.

According to the contract, National Technology would audit all 82 miles, identify and remediate any issues and provide written documentation and photos upon completion.