Sussex approves funds for fiber-optic ring

Project could pave way for broadband expansion in county
March 16, 2015

A broadband initiative to connect Sussex County government computers could result in a major improvement to the information superhighway throughout the county.

At its March 10 meeting, Sussex County Council awarded a five-year contract to Reston, Va.-based Broad Valley Micro Fiber Networks Inc. to install a high-speed, fiber-optic ring in Georgetown that will increase the county's network connection speeds by as much as 100 times – up to 10 gigabits per second – at four facilities.

“Metro areas are already experiencing this, while rural areas are getting left behind,” said Peter Aquino, Broad Valley founder, chairman, president and CEO. “It's time to move forward with fiber optic in Sussex County. It's been a long time coming.”

Under the contract, the county will pay Broad Valley approximately $100,000 annually for the service. Broad Valley will design, build and maintain the line, and Sussex County will lease space on the fiber ring for monthly service. Broad Valley plans to lease remaining space on the fiber-optic line to other customers along or near its path in Georgetown.

The company may expand service to other areas in the county and is having discussions with businesses – such as hospitals and the University of Delaware – that would benefit from broadband expansion, Aquino said.

“I envision a deep and expansive network in Kent and Sussex counties,” he said.

Construction on the fiber ring is expected to begin this spring and be complete in the fall.

The new fiber-optic line will connect the county administration building on The Circle, the west complex along Route 113, and the records management office and emergency operations center at the Sussex County airport. The underground line will be laid in a loop fashion, as opposed to a single line connecting each building, encircling the facilities to give them a two-way path to send and receive data over a secured network.

“With this project, the county is virtually limitless in its ability to connect our facilities to each other and to the rest of the world,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson. “That’s great news from an operational standpoint, allowing us to consolidate our computer systems and transfer data at the fastest speeds possible.

“But it’s even better news for our economy here in Sussex County, as this fiber ring will give businesses and other consumers along the route another option for broadband access and could lead to an expanded network across Sussex County down the road. That’s critical for Sussex County to be competitive in attracting and retaining employers that depend on a constant, high-speed connection to do business,” Lawson said.

The upgrade allows for bandwidth-intensive technologies such as video conferencing and faster backup of terabytes of data, said Thomas Glenn, director of the county’s information technology department.

“It benefits the county not only because it provides faster speeds for our operations, but it gives these county facilities redundancy and resiliency that is critical to ensuring a constant, reliable connection for the flow of information,” Glenn said.

Aquino said Broad Valley's strategic objective is to be part of the solution to bridge the digital divide in rural areas, pursued by Sussex County as well as the state. Initiatives under Gov. Jack Markell are focused on closing the digital divide for residents, businesses, education, libraries, healthcare, farming and government in the rural areas of southern Delaware, Aquino said.

The state has provided funding to construct a fiber-optic line along Route 113 and Route 13.

“This is exactly the type of work we hoped to make possible when the state completed a new fiber line running from the northern part of the state to Georgetown to improve broadband access in Sussex County,” Markell said.

Eventually, other consumers – businesses and residents alike – along the route of the fiber-optic ring could connect and pay for service, giving them state-of-the-art, high-speed access. Aquino said the average computer user in Sussex County has a system of three to five megabits. Broadband would increase that to an average of 25 megabits.




Under the current cable system in some areas in Sussex County, it can take as long as 45 minutes to download a HD movie. With fiber optic it would take 40 seconds.

Uploading a photograph could take as long as seven minutes; with fiber optic it would take 2 seconds.