Aurora panel delays fiber optic connection to Naperville

Written by Steve Lord at Beacon News Jan. 9, 2019 Aurora panel delays fiber optic connection to Naperville


The southeast corner of Diehl and Eola roads in Aurora includes lots that could become more prime for development with a fiber optic connection. (Steve Lord / The Beacon-News)

The southeast corner of Diehl and Eola roads in Aurora includes lots that could become more prime for development with a fiber optic connection. (Steve Lord / The Beacon-News)

An Aurora City Council committee this week further delayed consideration of a fiber optic connection to Naperville.

Aldermen on the Finance Committee are looking at a plan to spend $178,137 to push the city's fiber optic line from the southwest side of Diehl and Eola roads to the southeast side.

Aurora information technology officials want the connection so they can link up with Naperville's fiber optic system. Aurora already has a connection to Naperville's system — important because the two cities share emergency communication systems — but wants a second, redundant one as a backup.

City officials have been considering the issue since last November, with aldermen questioning if the primary motive for the connection is the secondary connection to Naperville, or economic development of four lots at the southeast corner of the intersection.

While aldermen are fine with providing fiber optic to the four lots — making them prime for economic development — they have said the question of the motive for the extension is a question of who pays for it.

Aldermen have said that adding fiber for economic development reasons is the purview of OnLight Aurora, the city’s not-for-profit corporation that handles the city’s fiber optic network. In that case, companies seeking the connection should pay for the hookups, not the city, aldermen have said.

Ald. Robert O'Connor (City of Aurora)

“Your emphasis has been the backup for Naperville, but it brings the development in,” said Ald. Robert O’Connor, at large, this week to economic development and technology officials. “Wouldn’t this have been the purview of OnLight Aurora?”

City technology officials, as well as representatives from OnLight Aurora, along with the city’s economic development officials, appeared before the Finance Committee this week to provide more information and answer questions.

But O’Connor and other members of the Finance Committee — Ald. Ted Mesiacos, 3rd Ward, and Ed Bugg, 9th Ward — held over any recommendation to the Feb. 9 Finance Committee meeting, seeking yet further information.

Technology officials have insisted the project is a city of Aurora project, to extend the spine of the fiber network to meet up with Naperville.

Officials presented information showing that connections elsewhere to Naperville would be far more expensive, in the $400,000 to $500,000 range. They also said that outages in November and December, one for 10 hours and another for a matter of days, compromised the connection between the Aurora and Naperville public safety communications systems. That’s why the redundancy connection is needed, technology officials said.

“This wasn’t an OnLight Aurora project, it was a city of Aurora project,” said Keith Gerald, OnLight Aurora executive director.

Gerald admitted the project does have an ancillary economic development benefit if those corner lots at Diehl and Eola are connected. He said if that happens, OnLight Aurora would step in and any companies locating at the intersection would pay to connect to the fiber system.

“Yes, there’s opportunities if we build that corner,” Gerald said.

Mike Baker, a network engineer for Aurora, said as part of the buildout for the connection to Aurora, the city would include conduit for the eventual hookups by businesses to OnLight. But he said part of the reason to include that is there are so many connections underneath that intersection, that there is not much more room left.

“If we go in, no one else will come,” Gerald said. “There will be no more room.”

OnLight Aurora is a not-for-profit organization tasked with growing the city’s fiber optic network to businesses, education facilities and government buildings. It is related to the city through a master services agreement.

The reason for so many connections at Diehl and Eola roads on the southwest corner is nearby CyrusOne, which handles and stores data for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, as well as nine other foreign exchanges.

Companies involved in the trading business want to be located as close as possible to that information.

After the Finance Committee delayed any recommendation another month, Michael Pegues, Aurora’s chief information officer, released a statement criticizing the delay.

“The Finance Committee’s reluctance to approve (the resolution), without reasonable justification, negatively impacts public safety, city operations and economic growth in the city of Aurora,” he said.

Aurora could do more than $1 million in tech upgrades in 2019

Written by Steve Lord at Beacon News Dec. 28, 2018 Aurora could do more than $1 million in tech upgrades in 2019


A list of four projects totaling $1.18 million was included in the city’s capital improvement program as part of the recently concluded 2019 budget process.

Three of the projects, totaling just under $1 million, are considered high priority.

Ald. Robert O’Connor, at large, the finance committee chairman, said the list was included because officials wanted to know how many tech-related projects were coming up, and what they would cost.

He stressed that although they are in the capital improvement plan, each project must come before the City Council to be individually approved. They all might not be done in 2019.

“All of them have to come through as a specific project,” he said.

One of them, a $300,000 project to install a “redundant fiber backbone” between the Naperville and Aurora fiber systems, has already been before the council and is scheduled to go before the finance committee again on Jan. 8.

The link would be on the east side of Eola Road, just past the intersection with Diehl Road, near the water tower along the Illinois Prairie Path.

The intersection is a busy one, both for vehicle traffic and for the information super-highway underneath, with 23 wires under the road there. The city is looking for the link as a backup to one Aurora and Naperville already have because they share public safety systems.

The city also would include some piping underground that could eventually help OnLight Aurora, the city’s nonprofit organization that has developed a fiber optic network to service local businesses, educational facilities and governmental bodies, according to plans for the project.

OnLight Aurora could eventually service several business on the east side of Eola Road, including the Scientel Solutions Inc. national headquarters planned along Eola, south of Diehl. The businesses would pay for the hookups to OnLight, officials have said.

The intersection is a hotbed of tech activity in large part because CyrusOne, a date storage company, has a large facility that just expanded on the southwest corner of Eola and Diehl. CyrusOne holds the data for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, as well as several foreign exchanges.

The project is considered a high priority, and is estimated to cost about $300,000, according to city officials.

Two other projects considered high priorities are the deployment of fiber from the city’s Barnes Road Water Tower to the Aurora Airport in Sugar Grove and the replacement of more than 10-year-old switch equipment.

The city has been discussing fiber to the Aurora Airport for its video surveillance systems for a while. But the cost of burying the fiber all that way — about five miles — is high, according to city data.

It would cost about half that amount — or an estimated $480,000 — to use ComEd power poles for the fiber, and earlier this year, the city struck a deal with the company to use the poles. It would be a bit controversial with some because it’s the first time OnLight Aurora would use poles for the fiber, instead of burying it, city data indicates.

But according to the city’s technology officials in their notes on the project, “a hybrid design of aerial and terrestrial fiber” is a “well established practice in the telecom industry.”

The switch replacements are estimated at about $200,000, according to information on the proposed project.

A fourth project, considered a medium priority, is refreshing an optical network server. That is estimated at about $200,000, according to city data.

Chesterton officially launches its high-speed fiber optics lines for businesses

Written by Joyce Russell Jul 12, 2018, Updated Jul 21, 2018 Chesterton officially launches its high-speed fiber optics lines for businesses

Officials cut a ceremonial ribbon Wednesday afternoon at Thomas Centennial Park to launch Chesterton's $1.5 million fiber optics network system. From left, John Nekus, president of Monroe Street Group, Jeff Trout, chairman of the town's Redevelopment Commission, Tom Long, president of NITCO, and Town Council member Jim Ton cut the ribbon.

Officials cut a ceremonial ribbon Wednesday afternoon at Thomas Centennial Park to launch Chesterton's $1.5 million fiber optics network system. From left, John Nekus, president of Monroe Street Group, Jeff Trout, chairman of the town's Redevelopment Commission, Tom Long, president of NITCO, and Town Council member Jim Ton cut the ribbon.

CHESTERTON — Even before the town cut the ceremonial ribbon launching its high-speed fiber optics lines Wednesday at Thomas Centennial Park, more than 40 businesses had signed contracts to utilize the service.

"It means that people are desperate for high-speed broadband internet service," said Tom Carroll, senior vice president for NITCO, which has a 25-year contract with the city to manage and operate the system.

The idea to have a municipally-owned fiber optics system began five years ago. The groundbreaking was held in January.

The system is dubbed the Chesterton Fiber Optics Network or CFON.

Duneland School Corp. became the town's first customer, utilizing two gigabytes of fiber, said Tom Carroll, adding 44 companies have signed contracts.

The more than 15 miles of fiber cost the town $1.5 million to construct.

Carroll said 330 companies are being reached by the fiber optics systems and the cable is run through all the main areas of the town. It runs through the town's entire tax increment finance district.

"Part of the Redevelopment Commission's long-term goal was to bring in high-speed internet. This is just the beginning. We are going to be able to attract significant users," said Jeff Trout, chairman of the town's Redevelopment Commission.

Tom Long, president of NITCO, called Chesterton a "fiber optic-ready community," ready for business expansion and growth, location and relocation. It will, he said, create jobs and increase property values.

"This will be a turning point for the town of Chesterton in economic development," said John Nekus, president of Monroe Street Group of Chesterton, one of the consultants on the project.

Town Council member Jim Ton said the fiber optic network was the most important aspect of the town's two-pronged approach to economic development. The second prong was establishing an economic development company, which it has done.

Carroll said the fiber optics network line has 288 strands of fiber total. Of that, they have lit 144 individual strands.

The gigabyte-capable network, said Carroll, would allow someone to download a movie in one second.

Carroll said the system's size should be good for the next couple of years and they have already begun talking about plans to expand the system to allow more businesses to contract with the town as development increases.

Chesterton is the third municipality in Northwest Indiana to go live with their own fiber optics network. East Chicago launched its project in March and Valparaiso launched its ValpoNet fiber network in May.

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.