Ocean City Today

County signs on to Maryland fiber network

Delays pushed agreement up to deadline, but deal done with hours to spare
By Brian Gilliland | Jan 04, 2018

(Jan. 5, 2018) Discussions between County Attorney Maureen Howarth and State Attorney General Brian Frosh delayed Worcester County’s entry into the state’s existing fiber optic network nearly to the breaking point as the commissioners voted to sign a memorandum of understanding with the state just 24 hours before the Jan. 3 deadline.

“This agreement is required for use of the State of Maryland fiber optic network and access to State of Maryland IP services,” James Hamilton, assistant director of emergency services wrote in a memo to Fred Webster, director of emergency services.

Webster agreed with the assessment.

“We have reached the point where if we are unable to provide a signed agreement by 3 January 2018 [State Department of Information Technology] DoIT will withdraw the agreement. This will cause us to renegotiate with the state and set back both telephone and radio projects causing monetary penalties in both of those contracts,” Webster wrote to the commissioners. “The use of Maryland fiber is a critical part of the path to providing connectivity for Next Generation 911 and Harris P25 radio projects.”

The penalty amount was not discussed, although the county would pay an annual fee of almost $88,000 for access to the system, plus rates based upon the length of the cable and method of transport. Existing infrastructure and aerial routes cost $1,400 per route mile per year, and underground cables cost $2,100 per route mile per year.

The county has 33.4 miles of existing infrastructure and almost four miles of aerial fiber, plus almost 17 miles of underground cable.

The commissioners voted in 2015 to upgrade existing radios into a new system at a cost of $8.6 million over the equipment’s 15-year lifecycle. Next Generation 911 allows voice, video, pictures and text messages to be sent to emergency responders rather than the traditional voice-only system.

The cause of the dispute was not elaborated on.

The Worcester County Public Network created by this agreement would support multiple public safety projects, general county government services, the public libraries and the Board of Education.

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