November 20, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
25°F

Highland Schools hooks up with superfast phone, Internet network

GRANGER TWP. — With sections of Medina County’s fiber optic network nearly complete, Highland Schools is set to be the first to tap into the system Monday.

Jim Gerspacher, chairman of the county’s fiber committee, said Highland was the first to sign a contract to connect to the network.

The school district’s contract with its previous network provider, Time Warner, was set to expire, Gerspacher said, so the county agreed to work ahead on the section of the network that runs near the school so the district could hook up early.

“Their situation needing to be addressed immediately certainly moved them to the front of the line,” he said.

While the $14 million network is still months away from full completion, Gerspacher said there is enough infrastructure in place to get Highland online.

The school will have full Internet and phone service and will have all its buildings connected to one network.

Highland Technology Director Roger Saffle said the district will save close to $90,000 a year by switching from Time Warner to the Medina County network.

“It will maintain the access we already have with a cheaper cost,” Saffle said.

The countywide project involves constructing a 151-mile, 144-strand fiber-optic network to provide high-bandwidth connections to businesses and local governments.

The Medina County Port Authority owns the loop, but private businesses and public entities such as schools and libraries can lease access to it. Cleveland nonprofit OneCommunity is building the network.

Construction of the loop was paid for upfront with a $1.6 million stimulus grant and by selling revenue bonds, he said, but will pay for itself in the long-run by the network.

Highland will pay $1,500 a month for the service. Saffle said the district also will be able to apply for federal grant money that would cover 40 percent of that monthly fee. He added the district’s previous contract with Time Warner was more than $100,000 a year.

“It will help us quite a bit to save that much money every year,” he said.

Gerspacher said there are several other entities that have given verbal commitments to hook up to the network, but there are many others that will have to wait possibly a few years until their current contracts expire and they are able to switch.

If no one hooks up to the network, the county is still responsible for paying off the debt. Each city also is in line for contributions to the project if it doesn’t independently generate revenue.

At Brunswick City Council’s meeting Monday, Economic Development Director Tim Smith said there were several companies interested in hooking up to the network, as well as several others considering moving to the area because of the new loop.

“They’re pretty excited that the city would be so forward-thinking to put something in like this ahead of time,” he said.

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.