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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Northeast Middle Mile Fiber Project On Time, On Schedule




Drawing inspiration from the National Broadband Plan, the Northeast Service Cooperative is pleased to be working together with others to help build a stronger Minnesota and create a connected nation.  As we enter the fourth year of our initiative, which my colleague Lyle MacVey calls "Project Destiny," NESC continues to move the Northeast Middle Mile Fiber Project forward with timely, measurable progress on all fronts:

Although it's been almost a year since the groundbreaking, the energy
carried over from that day continues to drive all of us.  (Jeff Frey Photo)


Construction: The Big Build


The mild Minnesota winter has allowed us the luxury of late season construction, including installation of the Optical Transport Network centers. Considering the fact that the scope of this project - with all its moving parts - has tested time, budget and human constraints, the relatively balmy weather has been a blessing.


Vendors and Partners


For planning, William Barattino of Global Broadband Solutions has helped keep us all on time and on task. (West Point really does turn out America's best and brightest!) For field construction - the 915-mile monster - Rohl Networks has been a great partner. The leadership from David Marinelli and Jeff Lopez, especially their "can do" attitude, has helped us work through the rocky times (pun intended) and, when we needed a miracle, conjured up a clear path for real movement when we needed to "git-r-dun."


Last but not least, we are delighted to have selected Cyan, Incorporated of Petaluma, California and Calient Technologies of Santa Barbara, California to provide the optical solutions for the fiber network. Coupling Cyan's optical packet solutions with Calient's photonic switching will allow us to build a best-of-breed agile optical network connecting the core, the edges and active sites throughout the enterprise. In fact, we see the Cyan 360 multi-layer support system service as a long-term network solution, an essential resource going forward.


Anchors and Services


A mild Minnesota winter's been a boon!  (Tiffany Anderson Photo) 
We continue to work closely with education, health care, critical services, local governments, counties, telecommunications carriers, the State of Minnesota and others. With as many as 500 sites or more scheduled to be connected, we anticipate an aggressive schedule for construction, including termination, testing and optical services. And, as we complete scheduled connectivity, we also continue to develop complementary services for anchors, carriers, partners and other project-based initiatives, including layered services such as unified communications, virtualization, data productivity and e-learning.


People: Committed and Engaged


We're growing! We are pleased to announce the addition of Jonathan Loeffen of Circle, Montana and Bruce Williamson of Perham, Minnesota as our new plant managers. Although their work will overlap, Jon will have an inside facing orientation while Bruce, or "Boots" as I like to call him, will be primarily outfacing or "in the field." Above all, cheers to our current staff: Project Coordinator Tiffany Anderson, CRM Coordinator Melissa Cox, Virtual Architect Greg Peterson, Linda "the Diva" Borchardt and CTO & Project Architect Lyle MacVey. Along with fiscal support from Mike and Jeanette, we have the best crew in Minnesota!


What's Next?


Construction continues. Engineering refinements follow. Sites have been added and priorities clarified. Some things are set, others remain fluid. We anticipate working at a rapid but thorough rate for the remainder of 2012...and, as needed, into 2013. Service provisioning begins this spring.  Essentially, we're at the midpoint of the construction phase with the all new middle mile fiber operation being rolled out in stages over the year ahead.


Acknowledgments


In 2010, the Northeast Middle Mile Fiber Project received a federal award of $43.5M in broadband funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) through the USDA's Rural Utilities Service. Under the agreement, the NESC Board of Directors assumes secured risk for 50% of project funds. Additionally, NESC has leveraged project investment through operational reserves, a state grant from Positively Minnesota and various in-kind contributions. Project revenue, including debt retirement, will be generated through network service agreements voluntarily entered into by eligible anchors, public initiatives and market-leading public-private partnerships.
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For more information on the Northeast Middle Mile Fiber Project, please feel free to contact us.  We welcome the opportunity to talk about our project and how it will help Minnesota stabilize its base, grow its economy and secure its future. We look forward to hearing from you.