Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What's going on with the project? Let's chat!

While I've been posting some replies to questions on the blog, it's been a while since I've put up an actual post on the project blog. I'll try to rectify the communication situation going forward.

Currently, we have the main basic infrastructure of the wireless network up and running (the "backhaul", as it's called). Our next step, the one that will be the most visible and usuable to the general public, is to get antennas mounted on street lights and electric distribution poles throughout town. These lower "street level" antennas will enable business and some residential customers to utilize the network much more widely than today. (Yes, the network is for businesses AND residents). I'll discuss what's going on with the street level antennas in a couple of paragraphs, but first a small departure on how the network is being used, handily, right now.

The town is converting most all of their internet and wireless needs over to the Internet Utility wireless network. The town hall and court switched over months ago to the wireless network, the town police station utilizes the wireless network for a number of things including communications with the fire territory stations, and the town water/sewage department is converting all of its internet and high speed communication needs over to the wireless network. In the near future we plan on pulling in other town police wireless needs (for internet access and station to station communication) , are working with the fire territory to add additional station to station communications and/or internet access, and are going to place wireless antennas on all water/sewage SCADA locations (pump stations) throughout town. Collapsing the town's various wireless networks into one helps to reduce the cluttered frequencies, reduce costs overall, and increase bandwidth and functionality.

In addition to the above, one of the other overall plans is to utilize the part of the wireless network for "public safety" devices only. The 4.9ghz band that is part of the network we are building will allow specific devices used by the police and fire depts, usually in-vehicle communication devices, to operate securely and uninterrupted by cluttered radio traffic. This is the fast growing trend amongst other communities, large and small (Indianapolis, Beachgrove, etc.), for increasing emergency response groups abilities to perform their duties. The higher frequency (4.9ghz) allows for much faster and larger quantities of data to be transmitted.

Now I'll chat about current status of getting antennas on light poles and electric distribution poles throughout town. This has been in process now for over 6 months. Duke Energy owns these poles and it's been a slow process to get the agreements and rates established with the town. They've been good people to work with, for sure, but there is natural beaucracy involved especially when it comes to creating something new, that hasn't been done before. They responded to our requests, we did analysis together on initial locations, have met with the town manager and town council members, analyzed equipment specs, they sent information to their corporate offices (out of state) who in turn started creating rates and proposed agreements. Since the rates are new and for a new function, they must be approved by the IURC (Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission) and that's in process right now. In addition, the agreements/contracts will have to be reviewed by our town attorney and town council, and approved, before we can move forward with mounting the antennas. That's the big rub right now and the longest delay we've encountered.

Not that we haven't had other delays along the way, of course. Let me chat about that for a quick sec before signing off. Other natural beaucratic delays that occur anytime you are working with any government sprouted up like weeds. I'll give you some examples that on the surface seem silly but in reality....well, it's just reality for one reason or another:

- Fire Territory approval and contract to mount antennas on their towers: ~3 months
- Brownsburg School Corporation for the same: ~3 months
- Brownsburg Parks and Recreations dept for the same: ~2 months
- Private property owners for the same: often much longer, but variable

Now, to be clear - most everyone I've worked with on a personal basis has been nothing but kind and reasonable people. In fact, often they are very enthusiastic about the project. But the general process of establishing these types of agreements for and within a government is painfully beaucratic and slow. It's just the facts - good people, slow processes.

I'll post more soon. Please feel free to ask questions, it's your town and you deserve the right to ask about what's happening.

Andy Hall

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