CCI's Visionary Community Fiber Project
In one of CCI's signature alternate access dark fiber projects, St. Joe Valley Metronet now re-branded Metronet Zing; cost savings, incredible speed and significant digital revenue streams were produced for its owners and users.
In 2002, while working to help the local Gramtel data center procure the immense data connectivity needed to connect its customers in the South Bend area, CCI began working with the conduit contractor for the City of South Bend that was responsible for the city street signals. We recognized that there was more there than simple two inch rigid steel throughout the downtown area, there was opportunity. After a detailed investigation with Mike Wiseman of Transtech Electric, CCI learned that not only was there conduit, there was available space. So on the wall at the data center on a tourist map provided by the chamber, CCI began plotting different businesses in town that could be reached with the known conduit system. Very quickly we realized that most large banks and hospitals were within reach. CCI then approached a number of the broadband based service providers in town, including the Kevin Smith, who runs north central Indiana's premier co-location facility; Union Station, and discovered that no one was looking at this incredible asset with community and economic development impact in mind.
With that, CCI approached city and county economic development professionals to gauge interest and propose its ideas. It was not until we hosted a local technology task force meeting (a group of business executives appointed by the mayor years before to create a community technological strategy), that we found interest. We pitched the idea and were immediately asked to join the task force as a technical adviser. The idea drove excitement, and was added to their agenda.
CCI spent the next year and a half further educating the task force to broadband technologies and the local market place. As this happened, a local third party economic development organization, Project Future was assigned the lead on our project.
CCI donated countless more hours to secure the use of the city's conduit systems. Initially, the city engineers frowned upon the idea, but later lead the charge with the mayor's support. Project Future then hired CCI as the initial and lead metronet consultant to conduct a formal business case regarding connectivity in the greater South Bend area. CCI formalized and documented a professional case study to establish the direction with or without an alternate access dark fiber in place. It was accepted well by the technology task force and city officials but no action was yet taken.
Shortly following the business case, a second technology consultant (Ron Kesiak) was hired by Project Future to produce a list of technology items that South Bend should focus on. CCI's business case was inserted into the section on connectivity of this report. We were glad to be justified but no action was taken. CCI then hosted a community tech briefing in late 2003. We invited a majority of CCI's large downtown broadband users and hosted it at the areas largest accounting firm. CCI brought technology task force leadership face to face with the local IT professionals for the first time to hear the unanimous support CCI built with local companies for this metronet idea.
As a result of this, CCI was asked to develop possible use models. A
market ready concept was produced by CCI and financial models were developed requiring investment. We created a metronet "steering" committee. The only thing lacking was money.
With a financial need at hand, the steering committee produced an investment summary of which CCI constructed an investor package to be delivered at an executive briefing for potential investors. We figured that we needed $1.75M to pull fiber into the city's existing conduit which translated to 7 investors at $325,000 each to cover this and two years operating expenses. Fifteen different organizations attended, and 7 were interested. CCI then spent the next six months securing the funding and contracts with the initial founding members by finding saving hidden inside phone bills. With all of the models in place and now funded, St. Joe Valley Metronet as a name and concept was then created, and a not for profit was registered by the executive director of Project Future.
From the point of the initial investor meeting to operation was about two years. With such large sums of capitalization created, it drew the interest of many individuals, businesses, educational institutions and politicians. One of them being a large univesity.
Their involvement as an initial user and eventual founding member, proved to be the perfect catalyst to get the initiative out of the gate. We eventually hosted one of our initial community technology meetings on campus to draw broadened community support; it was a complete success. We were also introduced to a very talented individual by the name of Steve Mayo whom has engineered a number of dark fiber projects around the country. He was introduced to the consultant team and became a good friend and great person to build this system with.
With the technical, financial and operational aspects in place, the last thing needed was leadership. Project Future took the lead on this building boards and executive committees for both the not for profit SJVM and the new for profit SJVM Inc. A business plan was developed and presented to the boards and executive committees and received unanimous approval. One of the true points of justification had to have been when the former president of Transtech, Bob Urbanski, was asked to take a look at our accomplishments. Even though he was long retired before anything was created, it was employees of his company that confirmed upon CCI's request that open conduit was available. It was great to make him and the company he built in South Bend part of the Metronet legacy.
After getting the SJVM project up and running, CCI was proud to train and transfer managment functions to a newly hired Executive Director in 2007 and remain very active in the South Bend marketplace helping companies utilize this great asset.
Since then, CCI has consulted on and/or managed alternate access fiberoptic systems in over a dozen marketplaces. One of the key reasons for our continued success is our experience and success in helping companies save money and grow broadband speed. We made things happen for our customers promoting vendor neutrality, cost savings and increased digital speeds and do not sell vendor services.
The new management has taken SJVM to be one of the most successful alternate access dark fiber systems in the country. Its superior design and purpose can be highlighted in the many many marketing fronts exemplifying its impact to the South Bend community at www.metronetzing.com www.southbendon.com and www.southbendon.com
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