Questions and Answers…
Q. How did it get started.
A. In the early 1990's Steve Meinhardt of Crystal Automation Systems, Inc. envisioned a countywide communication network. The dream was to bring together many entities (business, industry, educational, and governmental) to provide a viable, cost-effective network for everyone involved. In 1997 Crystal Automation Systems began to help the schools gain Internet access at lower costs. By sharing services, the local districts have saved thousands of dollars. The next logical step in the vision was to develop a fiber network where all entities could invest in their future by owning their fiber connections – thus reducing their long-term communications costs. With the addition of the MCC's Stanley P. Ash Technical Center and Montcalm Area ISD's communication needs, Crystal Automation Systems, Inc. saw the opportunity to bring everyone together to develop the “FiberNet” Project.
Q. What is the Montcalm County FiberNet Project?
A. The project is made up of a group of entities (public and private) that have a need for fiber optic communication cabling between their buildings to reduce telco and voice calling fees and expand capabilities.
Q. How may the project benefit my organization?
A. By bringing in multiple entities, the project reduces the cost of installing the fiber by sharing the cost between the number of entities that need to go to the same geographical location. Owned fiber is also an investment vs renting telco lines.
Q. What can we do with fiber?
A. - Data – A 1000Mbit data transfer stream will be available (large and fast) vs. 1.544mbit T1 from a telco.
- Voice – Making extension-to-extension calling and local calling to exchanges local to one of your sites.
- Video – Broadband video such as cable TV or Interactive TV (ITV) (e.g. remote video arraignments, shared staff development, or videoconferencing).
- You can distribute any signal that can run on single mode fiber.
Q. What type of fiber is it?
A. Single Mode. Note: Multi-Mode fiber is used for short runs.
Q. Is it secure?
A. Yes, all communication packets (voice, video, or data) will be transmitted on privately owned fiber. Each entity will be transmitting on their strands of fiber from end to end.
Q. What are the installation costs?
A. This is a “condominium-owned” project where each entity shares in the installation, operation, and maintenance costs. The cost for the FiberNet Project will be dependent upon the number of participants, the geographic location for each fiber drop, and the number of fiber strands needed by each entity. Once that information is known the costs will be shared by the entities using the same geographic connections.
Q. What if we can't afford it?
A. Shared data access connections may be offered to entities that want to share their own strands. Special needs will be considered. Also, maybe the path it takes can be shortened as the study progress and the lines are routed the shortest distances.
Q. How will the project be financed, coordinated, installed, managed, and maintained?
A. Crystal Automation Systems, Inc. (CAS) of Stanton will manage the project from start to finish. CAS will coordinate and manage the installation of the fiber and maintain the fiber once installed. As project managers, CAS will also administer the billing to the appropriate entities for costs involved with pole rental fees, repair, and maintenance. CAS will provide a maintenance agreement with all of the entities that share ownership in the fiber project. CAS has in place now, a 1-800 hotline for network emergencies and currently monitors MAISD’s network 24/7 for trouble, as well. For example, worst case, if there were a fiber cut, CAS would have the fiber repaired/spliced and then would bill the entities affected by the cut for the cost of the repair.
Q. Who will install the fiber and fix it if it breaks.
A. The project installation and repairs will be bid out. We have been collecting preliminary information from Consumers Energy. Since they own the majority of the poles and have the expertise for obtaining “rights of way,” they have been significantly cheaper than other companies so far. They have also played a role in cost-feasibility and design studies.
Q. Why are my cost breakdown numbers different than other entities with the same link?
A. This is due to some entities having other connections running over some of the same links. Each entity only pays the base install once. If they run another 6 strands of fiber over a leg of the link that they have already paid the base install for, they will pay for the fiber and install cost.
Q. Who will own the fiber?
A. It is a condominium style ownership. Each entity will own their strands of fiber end to end. Each entity will also pay a annual lease to Crystal Automation Systems, Inc. for pole attach fees, maintenance and administration.
Q. What is the Sprint offering about?
A. We are working with the NetCom Group, a Sprint reseller, to give FiberNet members the opportunity to directly receive long distance voice at a group rate with no telco transport fees.
Q. Can I get Internet access over my fiber?
A. Yes, Our local ISPs can provide internet access to members.
Q. What is involved if I want to receive Internet access over our fiber?
A. Simply drop 2 strands of your fiber off at your ISPs site or connection point that they offer access. It will not change the design of your base network.
Q. What if I want Internet access later?
A. It can be spliced in at a later date. The cost would be slightly more for the splicing.
We want to recognize Rex Skea and Mark Winslow of Great Lakes Communications of Crystal in working years ago with Steve Meinhardt’s early vision of a countywide fiber network for the benefit of education utilizing commercial entities to share the base cost of installation.
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