Wiring Loma Linda

Former city CIO James Hettrick reflects on the rollout.

Situated about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, the 8-square-mile Loma Linda (www.lomalinda-ca.gov) has a population of 20,000 people. The city is also home to major medical institutions, including the Loma Linda University Medical Center, universities, corporate office parks and shopping malls, while offering freeway access to mountains, beaches and desert resorts.

One of the city’s most innovative IT initiatives is the Loma Linda Connected Community Program (LLCCP) launched by James Hettrick, who served as the city’s CIO until February 2007. The LLCCP earned Loma Linda a spot on the Intelligent Community Forum’s “Smart 21” list for 2007.

StateTech interviewed James Hettrick and his successor, Konrad Bolowich, about the LLCCP.

STATETECH: How long were you in IT for Loma Linda?

HETTRICK: I was there 11 years, including about seven years as director of information systems, and a little under a year as CIO.

STATETECH: Tell us about the LLCCP.

HETTRICK: The LLCCP was an effort to provide high-speed municipal network service.

The most innovative part is the premises wiring aspect, which I’m proud to say I helped define and set in motion. I wrote the specification docs that included LLCCP premises wiring as a part of the city building codes. Loma Linda was the first city in the world to mandate fiber optics and structured wiring in all new construction, by law.

STATETECH: What does wiring homes and buildings cost, and who’s paying for it?

HETTRICK: The costs are absorbed by the builders. Wiring a house to meet this building code typically costs about $3,500, meaning it adds only about three-quarters of a percent to the construction costs of an average new home.

By comparison, to retrofit an existing single-story house would cost two to three times the amount.

STATETECH: How is LLCCP different from broadband?

HETTRICK: LLCCP’s service package is faster, less expensive, and more flexible.

Broadband offerings are more like three to eight Mbps downstream, and much less than that upstream. LLCCP can currently deliver gigabit service to homes today. LLCCP also offers symmetric networking. Most residential broadband is asymmetrical — fast download, slow upload. So we can support the next generations of network activity, like running a video server in your home, and peer-to-peer applications.

Also, because the network is based on switched Internet protocol, users can have virtual local area networks without needing an additional piece of network equipment at both ends. VLANs let you do things like separate traffic on ports, so for example, a home office is on a different virtual network to connect to your main office, while your kids’ computers in the other room are on a different network.

STATETECH: What were some of the initial drivers for the LLCCP?

HETTRICK: Loma Linda’s businesses are mostly staffed by city residents. We wanted to enable local businesses to work from home, by providing secure, safe and independent municipal network connections between locations. We have a lot of students who also can benefit from high-speed municipal network connections in their homes — take classes, research and work from home.

STATETECH: What’s the current status of the project?

HETTRICK: The LLCCP law was passed in 2004, requiring all new buildings to meet LLCCP code specifications. The first customer was signed up in 2005. As of early 2007, about 50% of the residents and businesses in the new LLCCP-compliant buildings have signed up for LLCCP service.

STATETECH: What are some of the uses for the city network?

HETTRICK: The network is designed to serve all city utilities and traffic management, including traffic control and red-light cameras. It feeds the wireless system as well.

LLCCP provides LAN-speed access to the Loma Linda data center colocation and application service provider offerings. The LLCCP is letting larger companies in town use the city’s data center to extend, back up or replace their own data centers.

Residents also have the ability to use the city’s fiber-optic network not just for Internet access, or for high-speed access to offices and schools, but also for other current and possible digital services, like telephones (voice over Internet protocol), Internet protocol TV, video on demand, alarm system monitoring, and anything else anyone can think of.

STATETECH: What are you doing these days?

HETTRICK: I started getting interest from other communities who wanted to pursue progress like Loma Linda has done — and I couldn’t do both that and be CIO for the city.

I’ve started a company, Information Systems Management Solutions (www.is-ms.com), doing strategy and business modeling services for stimulating sustainable and comprehensive communication infrastructures.

STATETECH: Any final thoughts?

HETTRICK: Cities compete for residents and for businesses. Communication is becoming a larger part of this, so if cities want to be more competitive, they need to adjust their philosophies and come up with communication master plans.

Leading Loma Linda

StateTech talks to interim CIO about the California city’s IT initiatives

Before he assumed the position of Loma Linda’s interim CIO in February 2007, Konrad Bolowich’s experience included a year in the city’s IT department, a year and a half as building inspector in charge of customer relations and construction inspection, and three years at IBM, building wide area networks for clients such as American Express and Sony Pictures. Prior to that, he managed emergency services for AMR in Washington state.

STATETECH: What are you currently working on?

BOLOWICH: We’re finishing up the construction of the LLCCP network backbones — burying piping and splicing 144-strand rings of city-owned fiber in each of the four quadrants. We’re actually laying four pipes in each quadrant. One pipe holds the current ring’s fiber [and] the other three pipes will be empty, giving us room to expand in the future.

STATETECH: How do businesses and residences connect to the LLCCP backbone?

BOLOWICH: The rings have nodes — aggregation points. Each new development is required to construct a roughly 10-foot by 12-foot aggregation room, which is then deeded over to Loma Linda — we consider it a utility, like parks or sewers. From equipment in these rooms, we burst out strands of fiber to each home or office.

STATETECH: How will you connect existing construction to the network?

BOLOWICH: In July, we’re starting an “overbuild” program to bring fiber to existing homes. We’re hoping to use a technology called blown fiber — you make a saw cut into the asphalt, embed a pencil-size tube, and blow a fiber through it. Most of the cost of fiber deployment is traffic control and restoration. This approach should avoid most of those costs.

STATETECH: What else is happening in Loma Linda’s IT world?

BOLOWICH: We just brought the solar-power project up. This will power all city buildings. We use the regular power grid when it’s dark, and we can reverse-meter — sell any unused power we’re generating back to the utility.

We’re putting publicly accessible networked cameras into our parks. It’s partly for security — [[for example,]] a parent could see if their kid really is at the park playing tennis — and also lets residents do things like watch Little League games in progress.

We’re working with Loma Linda University on a real-time emergency care connection, using our town wireless network as the backbone, which would let paramedics and emergency room staff look at patients together. This is sponsored by the Department of Defense, as a pilot for battlefield medicine.

And we’re taking the lead for San Bernardino County on implementing a Web-based emergency operations center, allowing command and control of multiple agency resources to be shifted out of a disaster zone — so, for example, if there’s another earthquake, control can be quickly and easily shifted to a nonimpacted area.

Jul 19 2007