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Broadband in Dublin, Ohio
 
 
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Thanks to a policy of promoting connectivity, the city of Dublin, Ohio, in the United States has been able to attract major companies and generate employment, while giving its residents much wider opportunities based on access to information and communication technologies (ICT). This article looks at Dublin’s plan to be the first in the state of Ohio to go wireless and its recognition as one of the leading intelligent communities in the world.

Almost the entire business community of Dublin, Ohio, is served by broadband connections to the Internet, as well as most households and all institutions and government departments. It is this innovation and dedication to developing ICT that led to Dublin being named, in January 2010, a Top Seven Intelligent Community by the Intelligent Community Forum, a New York-based think-tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st century community.

Dublin was named one of the world’s leading intelligent communities along with Arlington County, Virginia; Dundee, Scotland; Eindhoven in the Netherlands; Ottawa, Canada; Suwon, Republic of Korea and Tallinn in Estonia. Dublin was given this recognition for its commitment to building a knowledge- based society.

“It is a great honour to be considered in league with these global communities, and to be recognized for our efforts to keep our citizens and businesses connected to the world,” said Dublin City Manager Terry Foegler. “To be named one of seven international cities awarded Intelligent Community status further solidifies Dublin’s reputation as a community where you will find a highly educated workforce, an entrepreneurial spirit and the infrastructure to support it.”

But it is Suwon that was finally named in May 2010 as the Intelligent Community of the Year by the Intelligent Community Forum. Dublin Mayor Tim Lecklider commented: “Though Dublin may be the smallest of the Top Seven communities honoured this year, I think this achievement demonstrates that the city’s initiatives are on par with innovative communities across the globe.”

Dublin’s innovation dates back to the liberalization of the US market. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated the sector in the United States and Dublin began building a system of underground conduits designed to carry broadband networks. The fibre-optic network DubLink was completed in 2003 as a result of a public-private partnership with Team Fishel, a construction and installation company based in Columbus, the capital of Ohio. Dublin uses the network for its government offices, but does not provide communication services to other clients directly. Instead, it leases space in the network or conduits to private carriers, in a similar way to the method used in Stockholm (see article entitled Stockholm, Sweden: Encouraging competition with an openaccess broadband network in the May 2010 issue of ITU News).

“DubLink has been cited for connectivity by companies such as Nationwide Insurance (over 5000 employees), Verizon Wireless (over 600 employees), Ohio Health Revenue Cycle Office (over 300 employees), and Ohio Health’s Dublin Methodist Hospital (an almost USD 100-million hospital with over 300 employees),” said Dublin’s Deputy City Manager Dana McDaniel. “Competitive broadband services provide a competitively priced and fibre-rich environment for residents and businesses.”

The network has made Dublin one of the leaders in e-government, with services including an interactive locator of property and building sites for developers; online access to council meetings; and the ability for online applications to be made for official permits. Residents can also sign up to receive e-mail updates on specific topics.

In 2006, Dublin installed a Wi-Fi network covering ten square kilometres of the city centre offering high-speed, mobile access to the Internet. Using mesh technology from Cisco Systems as the wireless infrastructure, the Dublin-based company DHB Networks built an outdoor network and connected it to the existing DubLink system, which serves as the mesh network’s backhaul.

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The primary aim of the initial deployment was to improve public safety through supporting police and other emergency services, as well as to increase the efficiency of municipal operations, such as clearing snow from blocked roads. Access points to the network are attached to buildings and streetlights, and information can be sent via mobile phones, or by connected cameras and other sensors. Also, a Cisco wireless mobile router was installed in the city’s Mobile Command Post — a communications vehicle that links to the mesh network and enables the city to wirelessly transmit video from surveillance cameras and to operate a multi-station voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone network.

DubLink has expanded to join up with networks in Columbus and other nearby cities. It has also connected to the Ohio Academic Resources Network (OARnet) to establish the Central Ohio Research Network (CORN), which links local governments, medical facilities, broadcasters, businesses and schools to the Ohio Supercomputer Center and other resources. For example, it is now easy for all connected individuals and organizations to access the Online Computer Library Center, which has its headquarters in Dublin. This provides information on the collections held by more than 70 000 libraries around the world.

The next stage is to take the wireless network citywide. “Establishing a wireless institutional network was our vision from the start,” said Ms McDaniel. “Construction of this Wi-Fi system will provide mobile computing and remote broadband access for municipal operations. Broadband is as essential as any other utility in the global economy, and it is the infrastructure of the future.”

In building for the future, Dublin is also committed to leveraging technology and broadband to benefit and help the youth of the city. Every year, OARnet holds an event to bring together children from the United States and beyond. It is designed to give students in primary and secondary schools around the world, the opportunity to communicate, collaborate and contribute to each other’s learning, using advanced multi-point videoconferencing technology. For example, at the 2010 event (which was held on 25 February), students at schools in the United States and Slovenia were able to make music together, although far apart geographically. Other children gave presentations and answered questions on the science projects they are undertaking.

In order to encourage girls in particular to pursue careers in science and technology, the Ohio Supercomputer Center organizes a yearly Young Women’s Summer Institute for girls of 11 to 13 years of age. It comprises a week-long programme of activities, including practical experience of using the latest computer technology to work on an interesting scientific problem, such as the impact of humans upon the environment or the water quality of a river system.

“We are embarking on new initiatives with our local school district and regional colleges and universities to leverage broadband and to facilitate discussion between schools and the business community to strengthen, retain and attract quality workforce,” explained Ms McDaniel.

The Intelligent Community Forum, which seeks to share best practices and offer research and insights into the success of the world’s Intelligent Communities, recognized the educational role that communities such as Dublin have developed through ICT.

“The Top Seven of 2010 have demonstrated ingenuity through innovative broadband applications and dedication to education,” said Intelligent Community Forum co-founder Louis Zacharilla. “Each of these communities was affected by the recession, yet they pushed forward with their commitment to broadband, innovation and a knowledge-based economy through investments in research and development facilities, and the creation and aggressive support of small business and clusters of industries that continued to produce new jobs.”

 

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