Sep 28 2010

Adding Fiber Does a Library Good

Washington's Sno-Isle Libraries has slashed costs by finding alternate Internet service providers that offer higher bandwidth at lower prices.

With the economic downturn, many residents rely on free Internet in the libraries. To meet demand, the library system has subscribed to multiple T1 lines for each of its 21 library branches in Snohomish and Island counties, says John Mulhall, IT manager. Two years ago, in an effort to cut costs and improve services, Mulhall explored deploying fiber and found a service provider that other local government agencies had been using.

In 2008, Sno-Isle connected two libraries to fiber. Each location had been paying $3,000 a month to a traditional carrier for two T1 lines. Now, with fiber, each library pays only $470 a month and has seen its bandwidth increase from 3 megabits per second to about 1 gigabit per second.

"The cost savings is dramatic and the bandwidth is huge," he says. "It's a very economic way to go."

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So far, the library system has switched to fiber in seven locations and plans to add two more locations next year. IT staff has focused on library branches that have fiber nearby to reduce construction costs that require digging up streets. Those costs range between $35,000 to $115,000 for the library. But with locations paying $36,000 a year for T1 lines, the library system can recover the construction costs fairly quickly, he says.

"You have to think outside the box and see what other connectivity options there are," Mulhall says. "It's natural to think, ‘What we have works.' But as a taxpayer, I want to see money spent wisely."