Battle Creek Touts Own Network

Small Midwestern city is big on bandwidth with new OC48 optical Ethernet fiber ring and an OC12 sub-ring at W.K. Kellogg Airport

October 28, 2003

3 Min Read

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Mayor Brian Kirkham announced that recent agreements now bring access to high-speed bandwidth for business, industry and residents in the small city of Battle Creek, Michigan. Construction of an OC-48 optical Ethernet fiber ring, and an OC-12 sub-ring at the city's W.K. Kellogg Airport, links Battle Creek to the instantaneous movement of information around the globe.

"The fiber ring positions Battle Creek well ahead of other metro areas. Businesses here can share huge amounts of data with customers anywhere in the world, and Battle Creek families can take advantage of telecommuting and e-learning over the Internet. We can move information as rapidly and efficiently as technology makes possible," said Battle Creek Mayor Brian Kirkham.

Situated along the dynamic Interstate 94 corridor between Detroit and Chicago, Battle Creek's 44 square miles are populated with a residential base of 54,000. Recognizing that the low population density of the city, coupled with extensive public parks and a thriving 3,000-acre modern industrial park, made the city an unlikely candidate in the short run for private investment in a metropolitan area network, Battle Creek took matters into its own hands.

In late 2002, Battle Creek completed construction of a robust underground conduit system intended to carry fiber optic strands. With an agreement finalized between the city's economic development arm, Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU), and a locally based, small town service provider, CTS Telecom, Battle Creek city government will have 30 dedicated fiber optic strands for its own use, and BCU economic developers will acquire six dedicated strands and a portion of the bandwidth (equivalent to 500 IDSL data circuits) including Internet connectivity for public education, nonprofit and other governmental uses. The remaining bandwidth allows for private sector opportunities.

"This partnership between the public sector, private sector and an economic development organization is unique to the State of Michigan," said Gil Collver, president of CTS Telecom, "and to the best of my knowledge, might be unique in the entire country. The progressive action taken by Battle Creek to provide access to the downtown business area made it feasible for us to extend our existing fiber facilities and our connections to the public switched network and Internet into a locale of limited customer base. We are pleased to be a partner in this joint effort to make Battle Creek an attractive destination to live and conduct business with 21st Century technology."

Additional agreements delegate BCU to manage the city's multi-chamber conduit infrastructure and to administer a telecommunications consortium consisting of fiber belonging to the countywide school district and the local Kellogg Community College (KCC).

The community college played a pivotal role. With several other campuses across Southwest Michigan, and a business venture, KCB Education Unlimited, Inc., KCC strongly focuses on the development and marketing of nontraditional e-learning capabilities. Partnering with BCU, the intermediate school district, and Western Michigan University, KCC joined the Calhoun Area Millennium Partnership, ensuring that $210,000 was secured toward total project costs.

The price tag was steep, but manageable for the partners: A single payment of slightly more than $1.25 million covered the installation of the fiber and associated electronics, as well as maintenance and administration of the network capacity for the term of the agreement. In exchange for the use of 30 fiber strands throughout the new network, the city of Battle Creek waived fees for conduit access.

"Battle Creek government was not interested in owning or managing a telecommunications system," said BCU President and CEO Jim Hettinger, "so community partners brought together the resources and the bits of expertise necessary. Now we have an advanced telecommunications infrastructure throughout the city, from the central business district to the industrial park, from the community college to training sites, to the airport, our schools, our small businesses and our homes. This is a great big leap for Battle Creek, into the 21st Century."

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