Friday, June 08, 2001

Butler installing tech link


Fiber-optic line a lure for business

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — In a move designed to attract high-tech businesses, the Butler County commissioners Thursday approved a $2.7 million contract for the installation of an 86-mile fiber-optic telecommunications network.

        The broadband cable network, to be installed in the next year, will link Hamilton, Middletown and West Chester Township and Miami University.

        The contract is to be signed next week with Normap Inc. of Toledo.

Leap of faith
        “It will be a great boost for us in economic development,” Commissioner Courtney Combs said. “We're taking a leap of faith here, but I think it will pay great dividends in the future.”

        Butler is the first Ohio county to embark on such a project, said Cheryl Subler, senior policy analyst with the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.

        “We're not aware of any county in Ohio that has done a project of the same magnitude,” she said.

        The network will provide low-cost, high-speed communications among those linked to it.

        The idea grew from Miami University's desire to link its Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown campuses.

        Initially, the fiber-optic network will serve government offices, businesses and schools. But Butler officials hope that the network will spread to all parts of the county and allow residential access.

        The network will consist of a circular loop running through Oxford, Fairfield, Hamilton, West Chester Township and Middletown. Another line will run along Ohio 4 from Hamilton to Middletown.

        Butler will own about 25 percent of the system, and Normap Inc. will own the rest. Miami will use the network through a leasing arrangement with Butler.

        Butler and Normap can sell or lease fiber-optic strands.

        When the county began developing this project five years ago, officials hoped that it would require no county money. But the commissioners quickly discovered that few companies were interested in undertaking the project only for ownership rights.
       

What tech firms need
        As a result, they decided to offer $2.7 million in addition to ownership rights to a company that would install the system.

        “If you want to compete for high-end, high-tech jobs,” Commissioner Mike Fox said, “you have to have broadband fiber-optic cable.”

       



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