Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2018

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8 | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | 3 5 e city funded the deployment with a $4 million interdepartmental loan from the electric utility reserve funds to the telecommunications utility. After years of steady, incremental expansion, funded by the telecommunications division, the network has grown to about 760 fiber miles. e telecom utility has always been a division of the electric utility, and personnel from both divisions worked on the deployment to reduce costs and keep both divisions up to speed on each other's projects. EXPANDING OFN'S REACH In 1997, when community anchor institutions were unable to access the broadband capacity they needed from the incumbent, Ocala was ready to fill that need. CAIs began dropping the incumbent's $400 per month T1 service to sign up for 10 Mbps from OFN. Hospitals and clinics were some of the first and most enthusiastic to get on the network. By the late 1990s, OFN leased dark fiber to radiologists, hospitals and other health care providers. ey used the connections to establish their own networks for transferring sensitive, data-heavy files and voice data among facilities. OFN also leased dark fiber to Level 3. By 2011, businesses and a small number of home offices benefited from the OFN, and the city decided to look into the possibility of sharing the resource with residents. Consultants hired to develop a feasibility study recommended that Ocala continue to expand the OFN footprint in commercial areas where larger employers were located or areas new employers find desirable, such as industrial parks. However, the consultants didn't recommend that Ocala expand the OFN citywide to serve residents, noting that the project would require substantial investment. ey pointed out, however, that communities in which residents had access to FTTH typically experience benefits that outweigh costs. Elected officials in Ocala haven't always been politically or philosophically consistent on the topic of competing with the private sector. When the telecom division was still in the dial-up business, it resold service from nearby GATOR NET, operated by the city of Gainesville. Uneasy about competing with the private sector, the Ocala City Council instructed the telecom division to sell off the resale service to a private company. However, that was years ago, and a different city council has no qualms about the work OFN does for the community. Today, OFN offers several services for local businesses, including dark fiber, colocation services, dedicated internet service and private networks for businesses that have multiple locations. OFN offers businesses four standard shared internet access tiers and has worked with companies that require specialized services. RESIDENTIAL SERVICE When Ocala began serving residential subscribers, it did so on a case-by-case basis and grew slowly. When a business needed fiber connectivity to a home office, the telecom division connected the home as long as the business paid for the residential connection. e utility took a similar approach through 2012. e first home to receive fiber connectivity belonged to the IT director for a radiology clinic, who needed the connection to keep the clinic operating smoothly day and The gazebo in Ocala's downtown square and the Horse Fever sculpture. Ocala is known as the "Horse Capital of the World."

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