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Wilton Shared Data Network Back on Town Meeting Agenda

The Board of Selectmen on Monday voted unanimously to forward the estimated $1.5 million fiber optic project to the Town Meeting for an up or down vote in March.

Now that the Wilton Shared Data Network has the support of the Board of Education, the Board of Selectmen on Monday voted unanimously to forward the estimated $1.5 million project to the Town Meeting for an up or down vote in March.

The controversial project — which involves linking the Town Hall, Wilton Library and Board of Education offices/Wilton High School to create a fully redundant fiber optic network — was yanked at the last minute from the Town Meeting agenda in May due to a lack of consensus on the need for it.

First Selectman Bill Brennan explained that after the request for funding was withdrawn, the board appointed a special Townwide Network Committee comprised of various town officials to review and further define the project.

The fiber committee commissioned auditing firm Blum Shapiro to conduct an independent review of the project, Brennan said.

Blum Shapiro in turn supported the findings of an earlier report from BVH Integrated Services which concluded that the town could benefit from the project in a number of ways including improved network redundancy, reduced dependence on third party IT support, reduced communications costs, increased security and operational efficiencies.

Brennan said in November the fiber committee voted 3-0-2 in favor of the project. One of the two abstentions, he said, was because the committee member felt he could not support the project without the support of the Board of Education, which previously had not expressed an opinion on the project, but which has since expressed its support for it.

Brennan said he is concerned about the timing of the project, since the town is hoping to underground sections of the fiber when Yankee Gas lays new lines in sections of town next year. He said the town is "in active negotiations" with Yankee Gas, but time is running out to get the project through the approvals process.

Town officials have said undergrounding the fiber cables while Yankee Gas has the utility easement already excavated will be key to holding down the project cost. While most of the fiber optic network will be aerial, or pole-mounted, some large spans in the downtown will be underground.

"We don't have forever on this," Brennan said, adding that the project is "not budgeted" and therefore "must go before the town in a referendum."

When asked why the project price tag had dropped from the previous request of around $1.67 million, Town Chief Financial Officer Sandra Dennies informed that the town was able to reduce the project budget when it learned from CL&P that it does not have to "make ready" utility poles prior to doing aerial installation.

Brennan said in order for the town to come to a final agreement with Yankee Gas, funding for the project must already be in place.

"We need to bring this to a head," he said, adding that "every other community in this area has gone to a fiber optic system — as have most of the universities."

Dennies clarified that the $1.5 million covers the design of the new network, construction and project oversight and also includes a 10% contingency for escalation.

Selectman James Saxe pointed out that the project could save the town up to $500,000 a year by unifying the town, school and library systems, creating operational efficiencies through consolidation and eliminating carrier costs.

One of the advantages of the proposed fiber optic network is that it would give the town full redundancy (i.e emergency backup) by virtualizing its data and communications infrastructure — for example should Town Hall be destroyed by fire or in a storm, town employees could in theory report to the Board of Education offices, the Library or one of the schools, and work from computers and phones at those locations (or even from home) just as if nothing ever happened. In this regard the town government would be able to remain fully or at least mostly functional in the event of a disaster that takes a major facility offline. By the same token, Board of Education employees would be able to use the library or another town facility in the event the Board of Ed offices become disabled.

Second Selectman Hal Clark said he appreciates the importance of network redundancy after recently experiencing a network outage impacting "mission critical" communications and systems at his place of work. He said he was concerned to learn through the Blum Shapiro report that "there is no back up as of right now for the Board of Education's system."

The selectmen tentatively set Tuesday, March 14, for the special Town Meeting and vote on the project.

Cliff Cuming December 18, 2012 at 11:08 AM
There is no way this boondoggle saves anywhere near $500,000 Does the $1,500,000 include the $250,000 requested earlier via charter authority? Local pork.
Dave December 18, 2012 at 03:08 PM
How much is Wilton paying for phone and internet service that there could possibly be $500,000 to save?!? There's no need for a fiber optic cable for the Wilton government to remain up and running if Town Hall were to be destroyed. The solution is a laptop with a WiFi card. This is an insane waste of money.
EMR December 18, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Town Hobby commission at it again folks. Bill and Hal, why don't you just buy a Novelty Fiber Optic Light Up Centerpiece in the Danbury Mall to please your fiber optic obsession. Town Hobby commission thinks of lots of ways to increase your taxes. Maybe Bill can buy one for Hall to thank him for raising our taxes again by giving out a ridiculous salary increase to the First Selectman.
Alethiologist December 18, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Board members voting for tax increases year after year have poisoned this town. Why would anyone want to buy in here knowing how reckless and toxic the budget process has become.
EMR December 19, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Can the town please hold off tax increase meetings until we are finished with our grief around here. Thanks
Resident December 19, 2012 at 12:51 AM
I would note that Blum Shapiro is an accounting firm rather than an expert in infrastructure and technology. The aforementioned report does a good job of documenting some operational IT risk, but fiber is NOT a required solution. The fiber project is a premium cost "nice to have" item with no financial justification. Other than telecom firms, how many 'for profit' companies get involved with running and owning their own fiber? Broadband services and infrastructure is already available to each of these locations. This is a build versus rent financial decision with NO PAYBACK.
Charles Ambrosecchia December 19, 2012 at 02:27 AM
I am sorry for interjecting on this as I stumbled upon it. I am an IT and Telecom company executive from Westport and I must say that I had the best laugh of the year with this. Wilton does NOT need any fiber optic network. There are several option for redundancy up to and including the deployment of a solar powered fully meshed wireless network infrastructure. We do this type of work for companies worldwide and this is the most ridiculous thing I ever read. I can't wait to print it and share it with my staff and industry friends. If you need fiber that bad, negotiate dark fiber with Lightpath, they maintain it too!
Alethiologist December 19, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Just about anyone with a smattering of IT knowledge knows this fiber project is a crock of crap. Where the devil is Al Alper on this.? Isn't he supposed to know IT!? Shameless waste of money by selectmen who know absolutely nothing about IT. Just imagine what the pols in DC do with your tax $ (and borrowed Chinese $) as they spend us to the poorhouse! Stunning, really.
Lorna December 19, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Hullo, hasn't the B of S heard of cloud computing? Installing fiber optic cable is completely unneccessary. I am disappointed that money would be thrown at this project when there has been "deferred maintenance" on Miller-Driscoll and Comstock buildings. Shouldn't that be a priority?
Charles Ambrosecchia December 19, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Lorna: Cloud Computing has nothing to do with the intended purpose. Furthermore, cloud computing would require higher bandwidth. All they need is server and route redundancy. Ideally they would have a virtual environment (as in Private Cloud if you like the cloud word) running a number of hosts (main physical servers) and instances as in servers within the host that replicate between the hosts between sites. This allows for no downtime, hot transfer of sessions and continuous backup. The entire project could cost between $200K and 300K. We are a telecom company and we don't lay fiber... Someone will be making a fortune on this project at the expense of the taxpayers.
Cliff Cuming December 19, 2012 at 05:01 PM
CA yep, some elected jerk's pet project and the co-conspirator clowns follow along waiting for their turn to put forth a wasteful project of their own.
Charles Ambrosecchia December 19, 2012 at 05:18 PM
It appears that elected officials are not taking note of the fact that the world is going wireless. AT&T also filed to request deregulation so that they do not need to share their copper circuits any longer. They don't even want to maintain them and the reason is simple, they too are already working on wireless backbones. Far more flexible, more redundant and less expensive. I am always amazed at people that need to brag about their fiber optic network as if they have something special. Fiber optic is there for LONG HAUL meaning cross country backbones NOT for a town in need of connecting 3 locations. With Cablevison/lightpath pretty much offering fiber and Cable internet cheap for municipalities one must wonder why would anyone want to afford the expense of the deployment and maintenance. The equipment is costly, fiber cuts happen required specialized and very expensive technical services. I am at a loss understanding what the reason is or whom is in charge of IT Infrastructure in Wilton and at what flea market did he purchase his degree.
Cliff Cuming February 16, 2013 at 06:13 AM
Truth be told, they really don't need to connect the three locations to backup data. Each campus has multiple servers. The server in the town hall could be used to back up the server in the police station etc. as I recall, there is a fiber connection between these two buildings already! But even a wireless connection would be sufficient.

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