City plans to improve, outfit 59 sites with fiber-optic connections by next year

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(Courtesy of the City of Virginia Beach)

(Courtesy of the City of Virginia Beach)

Virginia Beach is expanding its fiber-optic reach and priming the city for future transatlantic cable connections.

Matthew Arvay, chief information officer for the City, updated City Council Tuesday on the status of project “Next Generation Network.” The initiative will outfit 65 government sites, such as libraries, police stations and animal shelters, with fiber-optic communications. The project, which is being implemented by the City’s Department of Information Technology, began about two years ago. Six sites have been outfitted so far.

“This is the first time that an optical network will provide government services for the city of Virginia Beach,” Arvay said during the briefing.

The department will connect the remaining 59 sites in four phases over the next year and a half, Arvay said. The city’s Master Technology Plan for fiscal years 2015 though 2019 explains the project’s necessity: “The City does not have a complete fiber infrastructure of its own and must lease services from a vendor to the remote sites.” 

More than 90 sites in Virginia Beach have consistently reported network-related issues in the past several years, according to the plan. Some of the most affected locations include libraries and the fire, police and parks departments. Issues included slow response times, network outages and inability to utilize new technology due to limited network capacity.

Mayor Will Sessoms announced the fiber-optic network and broadband-capacity expansion earlier this year, during his State of the City Address in February. The initiative will deliver broadband availability to the City’s strategic growth areas and establish connectivity opportunities for Old Dominion and Norfolk State universities and Tidewater Community College, he said in the speech. It will also give existing businesses and biomedical enterprises greater research capabilities and opportunities to grow.

Once the 65 sites are outfitted with fiber-optic connections, the City will save about $500,000 a year in leasing expenses that otherwise would have gone to Cox Communications, Arvay said.

The network is a “modern utility” and needs to be managed like one, he added.

The department also created a fiber franchise-agreement task force, which recently met for the first time, Arvay said during the briefing. The task force will ensure that requests for technology services in the city’s right-of-way meet standards the city decides upon, according to Arvay, who believes Virginia Beach is becoming the East Coast’s communications hub.

In addition, Arvay told Council about two transoceanic cable deals announced earlier this year by the city: Telefónica and a Facebook and Microsoft cable.

Current transoceanic plans in Virginia Beach

Telefónica (BRUSA cable): The multinational broadband and telecommunications provider, Telefónica, purchased 3.5 acres in Corporate Landing Business Park to build a large data center, which is planned to house the mid-Atlantic’s first transoceanic fiber cable station, according to Southside Daily’s earlier report. The cable is planned to stretch from places such as Brazil and San Juan to Virginia Beach. The City is currently finalizing a site plan and hopes to finalize the purchase by October.

Facebook and Microsoft (MAREA cable): The cable, announced in May, spans from Spain to Virginia Beach, according to Arvay. It is the fastest cable ever to cross the Atlantic, Arvay said.

Future connections

Companies have taken interest in Camp Pendleton as a data center and cable site because of its security, Arvay told Council during the briefing. The department is currently working on maximizing the space at Camp Pendleton to account for future cables over the next couple of decades, he said.

The City is currently working with the state to allow the companies into Camp Pendleton, and researching standard-industry rates for landing and transport fees in other cities. Building construction is estimated to be complete by April 2017, related beach manhole and directional drilling is set for completion by May 2017, and vessel installation offshore is to be completed by September 2017, Arvay said.

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City plans to improve, outfit 59 sites with fiber-optic connections by next year