LAWRENCE — On Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission approved an agreement with the University of Kansas to share fiber optic infrastructure in the city and on campus. The agreement provides the city and KU the ability to enhance and extend their respective fiber capacities at a lower cost than either could on their own.
Benefits to the city include the ability to accelerate the pace of connecting city buildings, traffic signals and other resources to a secure high-speed network. It also could boost economic development initiatives by providing greater connectivity to present and future co-development initiatives, such as the Farmland Industries site, East Hills Business Park, Bioscience Technology and Business Center, as well as other public/private partnerships.
“This initiative is another opportunity for partnership with the University of Kansas,” said Mayor Robert Schumm. “We see this shared initiative as a win-win scenario for the city and the university and are pleased to be a part of this project.”
KU has a number of academic facilities, research facilities and business incubation and collaboration facilities that require low-cost access to cutting-edge, high-throughput networking technology.
“This agreement supports current and future collaboration between KU and the city to promote entrepreneurship and meet the technology needs of businesses and scholars,” said Bob Lim, University of Kansas chief information officer. “And, it will help KU support world-class research and compete for research grants by providing a more robust fiber network.”
The city and KU have been in formal talks since June 2012. Under the agreement approved by city commissioners on Tuesday, the city and university will be able to install fiber in existing conduit, share fiber already installed and provide reciprocal access to rights-of-way and conduit facilities. In addition, there is the potential for future shared construction projects in which facilities would be simultaneously placed for both entities.
“Both KU and the city will see cost savings as new construction initiatives will need to be undertaken only once, eliminating redundant work, such as digging to install fiber and repairing the rights-of-way a second time,” said Jeff Perry, KU’s deputy technology officer.
The city, for example, plans to connect to KU using the university’s existing conduit and to place equipment in KU’s facilities. This will allow the city to connect for approximately $5,500 as opposed to an estimated $35,000 to $40,000 if the city had to start from scratch by burying its own conduit.
“This agreement will facilitate city-owned fiber to several key facilities, including the Clinton Water Treatment Plant, Fire Station No. 4 on Wakarusa and the Police Investigation & Training Center, improving access and service for public safety officers at those important locations,” said Jim Wisdom, director of information technology for the city.
Collaborative fiber strategies between cities and local universities have become more common over the past decade as a way to expand infrastructure at a lower cost and enhance business planning. In Seattle, for example, the city, King County, and the University of Washington have collaboratively installed fiber for more than a decade. And in Austin, Texas, a similar collaboration has allowed the University of Texas, the city, the county and other public agencies to dramatically expand fiber facilities and capabilities.