High-performance networking and very high-speed Internet access at low costs are benefiting northern Colorado public service organizations and their customers through the largest fiber optic community network north of the Arkansas Valley.
The Fort Collins Community Network, or FCCN, is a 26-mile fiber optic ring that gives public organizations a competitive advantage in research, education and administrative functions. The project, a partnership among Colorado State University, the city of Fort Collins, Platte River Power Authority, the city of Loveland, Larimer County, Poudre School District and Poudre Valley Hospital, also improving the ability of each partner to better serve its public.
"A high degree of collaboration among all the institutions involved has resulted in this exciting project," said Patrick Burns, director of Academic Computing and Networking Services at Colorado State. "It is a model example of intergovernmental and community cooperation."
Benefits for the community include better access to an increased amount of information at libraries and city offices, improved information services to hospital customers and enhanced educational opportunities for students in the Poudre School District.
"The FCCN provides a reliable and very cost-effective connection to the Internet for Poudre School District. It also gives us greater flexibility to increase bandwidth when needed," said telecommunications manager Victor Rosengren. "If the district procured a similar Internet connection on its own through a private carrier, it would be many times the cost."
Partnership benefits to the university and other northern Colorado organizations include direct, high-speed connectivity to other public sector entities; significantly enhanced video conferencing; streaming audio and video capabilities; extremely high-quality networking; enhanced computer performance; and substantial money savings.
"The network has reduced costs and allowed peering with other public organizations on the network, increasing speed and performance for all partners," said Gary Gordier, information technology director for the city of Fort Collins. Peering refers to the arrangement of traffic exchange between Internet providers and users. Before the FCCN, information sent from one local organization to another traveled from Fort Collins to Denver and back to Fort Collins.
The community network began three years ago when a group of Fort Collins public organizations started searching for improved Internet and networking connections. In response, Colorado State provided the group with high-speed Internet access, the city provided access to high-performance networking and the PRPA provided the fiber optic system.
"Colorado State is providing low-cost, high-bandwidth connectivity much cheaper and with much better performance than any Internet service provider," said Burns. "The city and the power authority provide the fiber optics, and all participating organizations pay their share of the costs, which are quite low compared to using an outside provider."
In 1996, the city of Fort Collins and the PRPA began building a fiber optic network as a public utility that would make the best use of current and future technologies. The power authority installed and maintains the network, and granted the city a portion of the fiber for its own purposes, which was used to provide the backbone for the FCCN.
Colorado State was able to provide high-speed Internet access through the Front Range GigaPoP, a consortium of universities, non-profit corporations and government agencies sharing high-bandwidth networking services and providing access to the Internet2 network. Through this consortium, Colorado State has a very high-speed capacity network and spare bandwidth, which is offered to local public organizations at the university’s cost.
Additionally, the FCCN is providing enhanced Internet performance to northern Colorado by offering networking access to business and residential customers through peering connections to local Internet Service providers. The FCCN’s success has led the state to look at the network as a model for community and statewide networking projects.
For more information about the FCCN, and a list of partner contacts, visit the Web at http://www.acns.colostate.edu/?page=fccn.