Pioneer Press, August 22, 2012
From issuing a permit to taking a 911 call to checking out a library book, governments run on their technology networks. “No network, no city services,” says Andrea Casselton, St. Paul’s director of technology and communications.
Maximum construction costs are $13.7 million if Ramsey County is the sole government entity in the project. No figures yet are available for a managed service contract with MFE for ongoing operational services.
Construction of the 120-mile fiber network of “rings” and lateral spokes could begin in the spring. Fiber optic cables are made with glass fibers and carry more information much faster than metal cables.
It will be a “dual-conduit network,” one publicly owned, with user agreements to serve such customers as the city of St. Paul and other public entities. On Aug. 1, the City Council approved a committee recommendation allowing the city to negotiate on joining the network.
The second conduit would be privately owned and would serve area businesses via other carriers.
It’s a “fairly novel approach,” said technology researcher Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which regards such networks as “essential infrastructure.”
It’s not the city and county, but the vendor, who will be offering services to others, he notes.
“We have also read a number of stories concerning municipally managed telecommunications projects going wrong and leaving local governments — and ultimately taxpayers — with millions of dollars in unanticipated expenses,” the letter says.
Let’s not let that happen to St. Paul and Ramsey County. A key, as Kramer points out, will be the forthcoming cost-of-ownership analysis.
While waiting for the numbers, we hope this discussion gets the high profile it deserves.