Things may be about to speed up for the city of Brookfield and Elmbrook School District.
Earlier this year, district assistant superintendent of finance, operations and human resources Erik Kass sent a letter to city officials expressing interest in teaming up to increase Internet bandwidth to both municipal and school buildings.
"The district has a need to upgrade their current facilities and expand. There's more and more need that comes with education with things being delivered via the Internet," Brookfield director of finance Robert Scott said.
The district recommended that the joint operation utilize a fiber optic network that will provide exponentially increased speeds for officials and students alike. In addition, Scott said that a fiber optic network would save a lot of money.
The city is currently aiming to team with the district in leasing a fiber network for 20 years. The estimated cost for this approach would be $1,051,212 for the city and $2,210,868 for Elmbrook, for a total cost of $3,262,080 throughout the lease.
The school district is projected to have greater expenses in the plan due to the larger distances that the network would have to reach to accommodate some of its buildings.
"They have longer distances to go and they have more facilities that they're connecting," Scott said.
Another option would be for the city to purchase and maintain ownership of its own network. This option would see the city's costs come in at $1,554,191, the district's at $2,342,062, and the total at $3,896,253. The increase in cost is not the only reason though that city officials are in favor of a lease.
"When you own it, it's your problem. Both us and the school district don't have the staff people qualified to run a fiber system," Scott said. "From a cost perspective it appears to be more beneficial to do it on a leased basis."
The lease also makes Elmbrook eligible for a federal program known as eRate, which would reimburse the district for 40 percent of its yearly costs for the network.
The city's IT subcommittee approved a recommendation to proceed with the fiber network earlier this summer and the Finance Committee did so as well this month.
The fiber network will provide 10 gigabytes of connectivity to locations on the network. The city's current T1 line, which Scott says is pretty much maxed out, offers 4 megabytes.
In comparison to the $1,051,212 bill that the city would see for its share of the fiber network, Scott estimates that the cost of remaining with the T1 line for the next 20 years would come in at nearly $5.5 million.
In his letter to Scott, Kass noted that the district soon plans to distribute nearly 4,000 mobile devices to students in fourth through 12th grade. The devices would require a great deal of bandwidth.
"These bandwidth requirements, which currently are at 500 megabytes out of the Internet and are forecasted to double in three years, can be met most efficiently by transitioning from our current leased bandwidth from Time Warner Cable to either a district or privately owned fiber network," Kass wrote.
The two entities hope that a fiber network can be approved by Elmbrook's Board of Education and be included in the city's 2015 budget this fall and that work can begin on building the network nex spring. Construction would take approximately a year.
"This gives us more than probably the city would need for the foreseeable future and it gives the school what it needs. Overall it provides better communication to all facilities at lower costs," Scott said. "There will be a lower overall cost to the tax payers."
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