September 08, 2010/The Bay City Times
By Shannon Murphy
BAY CITY — For now, Bay County will use its access to a quicker fiber optic line to help back up important county data if there is a disaster.
But the free access to Saginaw Valley State University’s fiber line eventually could lead to more regional collaboration between Bay and Saginaw counties.
SVSU has agreed to allow Bay County government to hook onto two strands of fiber that run along First Street in Bay City, said Ken Schindler, the university’s executive director of information technology services. The fiber optic strands were installed about 10 years ago as part of a U.S. Department of Education grant used in collaboration by SVSU and several school districts, including the Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District, the Saginaw ISD and the Saginaw School District, Schindler said.
“For Bay County, this is just a beginning,” he said. “We have a collaborative tri-county network and, by making agreements with different (entities), we can get access to Midland and Saginaw counties. You can have direct network access to (counties) and their systems.”
SVSU uses multi-county fiber runs to deliver distance education courses outside the campus and the same thing possibly could be done using county buildings.
The Bay County Ways and Means Committee approved a three-year agreement with SVSU to connect to the fiber. Final approval still is needed by the full Bay County Commission.
While SVSU is not charging the county for use of the cable, there still is a cost associated with connecting to it. The roughly $10,000 cost likely will come from a critical infrastructure grant from Homeland Security.
Bay County’s Assistant County Executive Mike Gray said the county has had discussions over the years with SVSU and the Bay-Arenac ISD about connecting to the fiber.
He said for now the connection will be used as a backup source to access important county data if the county’s computers go down or a building is destroyed here.
Gray said a multi-county disaster recovery network also could be used with the network to save costs if other agencies are interested.
“There’s a tremendous amount of potential,” he said about what the fiber could be used for down the road. “Everyone is trying to cut their budgets and if we can find out ways to share and do things at less costs, that is a great thing.”