The Coast News Group
Carlsbad City Hall. Photo by Steve Puterski
Carlsbad City Hall. Photo by Steve Puterski

New digital network to save Carlsbad nearly $2M

CARLSBAD — A digital revolution has been in the works for months.

And now, Carlsbad is moving forward with a three-phased plan to overhaul its digital information network, according to Maria Callander, director of information technology.

The council approved several contracts during its Dec. 17 council meeting including one with Crown Castle Fiber, LLC, which will give the city control over its digital network with dedicated fiber-optic lines.

In addition, David Graham, the city’s chief innovation officer, said upgrades will streamline efficiency and cost, reducing up to $2 million from its previous network.

“We have slow speeds at relatively high costs,” Graham told the council. “We have reliability issues. It is not a predictable network … and not set up for our future needs. We do multiple types of networks that are connected based on business need or type of technology.”

The first phase, Callander said, includes connecting all the city facilities on the new, high-speed network. The digital information network carries data and allows the city to manage payroll, email, public Wi-Fi, park facilities, the utility infrastructure and public safety, among others.

Another benefit, Callander said, is the city will own 91% of the new network through its contract with Crown Castle Fiber, while the company will provide the remaining 9%. She said the city could also lay its own cables in the future, if needed.

“As part of the agreement, the City Council negotiated four to six strands of their dark fiber that exists anywhere in the city,” Callander said of a 2017 decision by the council. “There are 24, 25 city facilities we are connecting with this agreement. Our new strategy is to look at the city as a whole and all of the city’s needs and create a digital information network as a whole.”

Internet speeds will increase to 10 gigabytes per second and upgrade the backbone connection for the traffic management system and provide service to a new wireless system, according to the staff report. For example, currently downloading a 4K video takes between one and 24 hours, but with the new network the same video would take one minute.

As for cost, the city previously leased its “space” on its old network from a third party for $750,000 per year and those costs will increase. The new agreement with Crown Castle Fiber is for $324,000 per year for 10 years with the option to renew for two-year periods, according to the staff report.

The new systems total about $72,000 per year, with a five-year term. The current system used by the city has less capacity and runs about $120,000 per year.

The city will also pay a one-time fee of $4,446,793 for equipment needed to max out capacity out of the four or six fibers. It includes capital costs, licensing and maintenance for five years, per the staff report.

However, the new system will cost about $470,000 per year with annual savings of $245,000 and control over the network, which would potentially cost the city $9 million to build even before equipment purchases, Callander said.