Citizen Harry: What’s new with Citizen’s Technology Advisory Committee

By Harry Gatjens

The Citizen’s Technology Advisory Committee met in early December to review the progress being made with the implementation of the City’s fiber network. The agenda included updates on existing projects plus some new areas of opportunity to explore.

One new area that was mentioned was the development of “white space” delivery technology for data and/or Internet services. White space is the old frequencies that were used for broadcast television (channels 4-13, for example) before the mandated change to digital television a few years back. These frequencies are now being developed for wireless data communications. The main advantage is that the potential range of the signal is miles and miles compared to what is available now through Wi-Fi and the like. This opens up great opportunities for distributing data and Internet services without the expense of large wiring projects. The whole system is still in the development stages but offers great potential for savings in the future.

Speaking of wiring, the City of Edmonds missed out on an opportunity to get Snohomish County PUD to pull some fiber cable for the city at a greatly reduced cost. PUD had said that it was pulling fiber cable to many areas of the city for its own purposes, and offered to do the same for the City at the same time — charging only for the cable itself and a small amount for the contractor to pull two cables rather than just one.

In the long run, this probably would have saved the city 80 percent or more over the cost of hiring its own contractor to do a separate install. But alas, $250,000 wasn’t available in the budget to pay for the work: An example of how being in financial peril can cost you money if you can’t take advantage of savings opportunities.

In other CTAC news, Edmonds has filed an applicatip0n to become a “Google” city in which Google is picking test cities to develop fiber services and help underwrite the costs. This would be an excellent opportunity for Edmonds to develop its fiber network with a leader in the industry. Google has already chosen one city for this project — Palo Alto — but is expected to pick several more. Both Karl Nelson, the city’s IT manager, and Stephen Clifton, city development director, are following this process.

Work continues on developing the city’s first true commercial customer of its fiber network, which will serve as a test bed for the business model of selling the fiber services. Nelson also mentioned that as part of the city’s continuing efforts to utilize fiber for the City’s internal needs, they had converted over another service that will save the city over $7,000 annually.

CTAC meets once a month, on the first Tuesday, at City Hall. The public is welcome.

Edmonds resident “Citizen Harry” Gatjens is providing regular reports to My Edmonds News on the workings of the Edmonds city government, including the 2010 Citizens Levy Committee and the Citizens Technology Advisory Committee.

  1. It’s great to continue to see updates on the FIBER OPTICS program. In this one we read of several potential developments.

    However, lets not forget, another year of great expectations is passing and we remain in a deep hole.

    So, when will the promised financial blessing occur? How many more years of debt?

  2. Great update Harry. Kevin CTAC meets at 8:30 am hope you can come. Harry made reference to the new technology that uses “white space”. A couple of added thoughts. WS is much more effective than the current wireless technologies because of the part of the spectrum that it uses. Because the frequencies used are in the Analog TV range the signals can go through wall of buildings much better than today’s hot spot signals. It can also travel over much longer distances that today’s current wireless signals. The implication of that is using today’s technology we would have to have a large number of antennae around town to cover our geography. But with WS technology we could cover all of Edmonds with far fewer antennae. This technology has already been tested and proven in trial areas. Just do an internet search on wireless white space and you can see how this new technology is unfolding. The Edmonds CTAC team and the Edmonds Economic Development Commission are both watching the development of this technology.

    There are a number of ways to use this technology in the future and letting your mind wander with the possibilities can lead to some interesting ideas. For example if Edmonds were to work with the Edmonds School District we could put an antenna on every school building and have a fairly broad reach to a lot of neighborhoods in south county. The technology while tested is not ready for general deployment but think of the possibilities. That is what the CTAC and EDC teams are doing and Harry is doing a good job keeping us all informed.

    Ray you have asked some good questions and here are the answers in summary. Much of this has already been reported by Harry in his earlier posts and a full report supported by the citizens who are on CTAC and the EDC was given to the council in August. The full report was posted on the City web site as part of the council packet. At the time it was posted you had asked several questions and I emailed you directly an offered to go over all the information. That offer still holds if you want to go over all the details but here are the answers to your questions.

    You said, “However, lets not forget, another year of great expectations is passing and we remain in a deep hole.” We reported to council that while we had invested just under $500,000 we have accrued more that $115,000 of benefits up to the last August. We reported to council that we were had an annual net benefit to the city of more that $81,000. That was the annual net going forward as of last August. There were added benefits to the City of around $95,000 but we did not include them in the calculations. They we not counted because while all the committees agreed they were benefits we wanted to include just the “hard” dollars in our benefit analysis. We simply wanted to be very conservative in our benefit calculations. In the 4 months since the report we are actually making a contribution to the City greater than the $81,000 per year. Revenues are up and we are in talks with other customers which will add more. So as we said in August we expected the numbers to improve and they have done just that. More about the hole in the next answer.

    You asked, “So when will the promised financial blessing occur?” and How many more years will years if debt?” Good questions. What we promise is $81,000 per year and we are actually making that bigger. So the blessings are already happening and will grow as we add revenue and other savings. When we reported to council in August we estimated the full pay off of all past expenses, (breakeven) to happen in about 56 months or April of 2015. Now with the added revenues that breakeven point will be bettered by about six months and will now occur probably in late 2014. With added revenue we plan to improve on that and if we were to count the other savings mentions the break even would be in late 2013. So since our report to council in August we are doing better than planned. We are “making a profit” annually and will pay back all the costs associated with the project as discussed. With the help of CTAC and EDC the city is actually reducing the pressure on the budget with the fiber project.

    The offer still holds to meet with anyone who would like to go over the details or we can all just watch for Harry’s next report.

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