Bringing community broadband home

The City of Fairlawn, Ohio, is a picturesque suburb of Akron with an easy commute to Cleveland. With the city’s 7,500 residents paying the lowest property tax bills in Summit County, the community should be ideally positioned to thrive. But in our increasingly connected world, being close to two of the five largest cities in the state isn’t enough to entice young people and businesses to choose a Fairlawn ZIP code.

This reality became clear when a new hospital set its sights on Fairlawn and found the existing communications infrastructure to be inadequate for operations. Plus, the mayor’s overseas trade show missions sparked the interest of many businesses drawn to Fairlawn’s great land, water, and talent – interest that fizzled time and again when business owners realized that the available bandwidth fell short.

These losses drove the point home: to appeal to new business and keep existing enterprises local, the city needed an upgrade. The upgrade needed to be all-encompassing – one that could satisfy the requirements of local businesses and the people who live in Fairlawn. Ernie Staten, the city’s deputy service director, leads the department responsible for the city’s infrastructure, but at home he struggled to maintain viable internet access. Like everyone else in Fairlawn, his connectivity couldn’t support both him working and his City of Fairlawn, Ohio Bringing community broadband home Corning Optical Communications LLC
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Corning Optical Communications reserves the right to improve, enhance, and modify the features and specifications of Corning Optical Communications products without prior notification. A complete listing of the trademarks of Corning Optical Communications is available at www.corning.com/opcomm/trademarks. All other trademarks are the properties of their respective owners. Corning Optical Communications is ISO 9001 certified. © 2018, 2019 Corning Optical Communications. All rights reserved. CRR-824-AEN / July 2019 children playing online simultaneously. Together with the missed hospital opportunity and failed trade shows, stories like Staten’s inspired the mayor and other city leaders to seek out an achievable solution

With progress come challenges, and the successful community broadband story tends to have a hero who taps into available resources for help. Staten’s job for the city dovetailed nicely with the prospect of a city-run broadband utility – which was certainly a bonus – but Staten earned his superhero cape for educating himself, then the city’s leadership on the best path forward for Fairlawn: a fiber network. “Through my research on network infrastructure in collaboration with Fujitsu, I discovered that an investment in fiber could lead to profit for the community,” Staten said. “In addition to the revenue from sign-ups, this network’s gigabit connection would attract new businesses and their employees to Fairlawn, driving economic development for the city.” Working hand-in-hand with the city was Fujitsu, a leading information and communication technology company. Fujitsu quantified what it would take to build a broadband network and to put Fairlawn on the path to profitability. “In addition to the revenue from sign-ups, this network’s gigabit connection would attract new businesses and their employees to Fairlawn, driving economic development for the city.” Looking beyond short-term costs and instead seeing the long-term value of a fiber infrastructure alleviated any initial concerns about the network upgrade. From there, Staten partnered with Fujitsu to determine the right technology, network design, and funding model to bring broadband connectivity to life in Fairlawn. With a comprehensive business case in hand and a blue ribbon committee of community members, they entered what became a two-year process of compiling and putting out an RFP for the project. When the proposals came in, Corning’s FlexNAP™ system stood out. The technology enables installers to “tap into” fiber optic cabling running through the city, connecting homes and businesses in a process that’s similar to plugging a lamp cord into an electrical outlet. The approach is much easier and more cost-effective than the traditional method of cutting into the fiber optic cable and fusion splicing fibers at every connection point.

Fairlawn’s gigabit network was installed in just 12 months and already has an impressive utility take rate of approximately 50 percent. City leaders immediately seized on the new infrastructure to deliver what was once just a dream for community members: reliable Wi-Fi everywhere in Fairlawn, including 3,000 homes, 300 multidwelling units, and 800 businesses. “Our new network is transforming the outlook for our community in general, and for my hotel in particular, it’s a game changer,” said Rennick Andreoli, owner of the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn. “Not only are we able to elevate the connectivity we offer to guests, now our day-to-day hospitality operations are more efficient. I call it a win/win.” For more information about the gigabit fiber project in Fairlawn, visit the FairlawngGig website or contact 330-668-3300. Click here to learn more about Fujitsu’s broadband solutions, or call 888-362-7763. To schedule a free feasibility study for your community, connect with Corning online or by calling customer care at 828-901-5000, toll free in the United States at 800-743-2675.