The short answer: Ask your state’s research and education (R&E) network.
What’s Happening in Cuyahoga County, Ohio
CCPL will soon have a broadband connection that is 100 times faster than their old connection. The cost for one gigabit? Just over double what CCPL was paying for 10 Mbps.
In 2013, the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) obtained high speed broadband in their branches larger than 10,000 square feet. CCPL Director Sari Feldman sees high-speed broadband and a skilled staff as the essential resources necessary to accomplish the library’s mission. CCPL’s mission is to be at the center of community life by providing an environment where reading, life-long learning and civic engagement thrive. In practical terms, this means being able to meet the continually increasing public access bandwidth needs while also creating new informal learning services and spaces. The new services could only be implemented with increased broadband, internal infrastructure and staff buy-in.
The First Library Branch with a Gig
Prior to the 2013 upgrade, CCPL had a 10 Mbps connection into their administration building, which served all 28 branches. In 2012, CCPL completed a new Warrensville Heights Branch. CCPL knew the following factors would require additional bandwidth in the new building:
- Increased size of the building from 14,215 to 27,500 square feet.
- Increased public access computers from 18 to 59.
- The branch is located in a low-income neighborhood (median income of $35,926) resulting in substantial use of the public access computers and the wireless Internet access.
The construction of the new Warrensville Heights Branch coincided with OneCommunity’s infrastructure grant from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. The grant helped cover the cost of deploying fiber to the Warrensville Heights branch. The one gigabit connection ensures no blackouts, no restrictions on the network and the potential to innovate to meet the needs of the community.
As a nonprofit, open broadband network provider OneCommunity is rare.
Accessing the State Research and Education Network
CCPL’s next step was to get a gigabit connection into the other branches. They needed a gigabit connection into the administration building, internal infrastructure to manage the connection and redistribute to the branches, and the network connections to the branches that could handle the redistribution. With their e-rate contract ending in 2013, they knew the timing was right. OPLIN (Ohio Public Library Information Network) secured a gigabit connection from AT&T to CCPL’s administration building. For the connections out to the branches, CCPL created an RFP, received proposals from OneCommunity and AT&T, and chose AT&T because their proposed cost was significantly lower. The AT&T bid was lower due to AT&T’s existing local infrastructure.
Where did AT&T get access to a gigabit for the connection to CCPL’s administration building? Ohio’s research and education network (R&E network). OARnet (Ohio Academic Resources Network) operates 1,850 miles of fiber-optic backbone in Ohio. As with other R&E networks, OARnet was created to provide high-speed broadband access to universities and colleges while connecting them to each other. As libraries increasingly become known as centers of learning, they are joining the community anchor institutions served by R&E networks. Today, OARnet provides connectivity to Ohio’s colleges and universities, K-12 schools, public broadcasting stations, academic medical centers, and state, federal and partnering research organizations and public libraries. As of April 2014, OARnet is the originating high-speed access point for 54 public library systems in Ohio. Another 54 libraries are in the process of gaining access to OARnet.
Adding Library Systems to R&E Networks
Originally developed to connect campus research centers with high-capacity Internet and computing services, R&E networks have expanded over time, offering non-commercial services to K-12 education, libraries and other community institutions. In a 2011 report, Connections, Capacity, Community: Exploring Potential Benefits of Research and Education Networks for Public Libraries, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation highlighted ways in which these networks and community anchor institutions, particularly public libraries, could collaborate to provide high-quality broadband connections for users in the communities they serve.
CENIC (Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California), another R&E already serving K-12 schools and higher education, is now piloting the addition of library systems to CalREN (California Research and Education Network). One of the pilots is the Peninsula Library System. Now that they are on the network, Peninsula is paying less for 1 Gbps than they were paying for 5 Mbps. CENIC has documented California libraries’, including Peninsula’s, broadband access and future use in multiple reports.
Additional funding is needed to add library systems to the CalREN fiber “backbone” as part of a statewide broadband infrastructure project. The California Library Association, CENIC and the California State Library worked together to get the necessary funding included in the governor’s 2014-2015 state budget.
Inclusive Gigabit Libraries
This article is the second in a series providing a preliminary peek into the research results of the Inclusive Gigabit Libraries project. Through a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, we at the Center for Digital Inclusion, Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois are asking “How can libraries, as anchor institutions, leverage high speed networks and applications to benefit communities?” The first article, What Good is a Gig is available on District Dispatch.
ALA note: Learn more about securing high-capacity broadband for your library and community at the ALA Annual Conference program Libraries as Leaders for Community Broadband Access Sunday afternoon, June 29. Monica Schultz, IT director at the Peninsula Library System and chair of the OITP Telecommunications Subcommittee, will moderate.