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Internet access and speed at Wallingford Town Hall could be boosted through grant

WALLINGFORD — The town is pursuing a grant that would fund work to dramatically increase Internet speed and access in Town Hall and other municipal buildings.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Town Council as part of the consent agenda approved a resolution authorizing the Department of Public Utilities to apply for the Regional Performance Incentive Program offered by the state Office of Policy and Management.

Through the grant, the town would gain access to the Nutmeg Network, a statewide fiber-optic infrastructure that expands the reach of high-speed networking. The town is seeking nearly $29,000 to replace existing DSL connections in Town Hall with a fiber network. This network would increase Internet speeds from 3 megabits per second to 20 megabits per second, according to Christian Lucht, network administrator for the Department of Public Utilities.

Lucht has been pursuing the grant, Public Utilities Director George Adair said. While Lucht works in Adair’s department, his services are utilized throughout town. The town’s Internet “campus of distribution” is located at the Electric Division, Adair said. Seven DSL lines branch out from the John Street building and provide Internet to utility buildings and Town Hall.

“This grant is attractive because there are some build out costs to get this network to Town Hall,” Adair said. “The grant will cover those costs.”

In a memo to Adair also provided to town councilors, Lucht said annual recurring costs for the Nutmeg Network not covered by the grant are $3,229 compared with the $6,399 spent annually for existing DSL lines. There will be an annual cost savings of $3,169, he said.

Annual costs for the fiber lines jump to $7,129 in the second year of service because of maintenance, Lucht said, making the service’s annual cost $729 more than DSL.

“But the first year savings would offset this differential for four years,” he said.

“Other benefits would be the ability to easily add other offices in the Town Hall or Public Utilities to the Internet if the need arises and centralized management of the Internet computers,” Lucht said.

According to guidelines published by OPM, grants will be awarded in the next year.

“It’s great when you can upgrade and get a better service and have less cost and better reliability,” Adair said.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said he approved of the grant application because “it appears to save us some money.”

“When you can reduce cost, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Dickinson is known for being hesitant when it comes to adopting new technology and many town employees do not have Internet access or email at work. Dickinson said he’s not averse to technology, but opposes “doing new things just because they’re new” without taking cost into account.

“Wherever there’s a need for Internet use we supply that the best we can,” he said.

If the grant is awarded, Dickinson said, an analysis will be performed to see which offices or buildings need increased access.

When the town spends money on technology, it looks for savings through efficiency, Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said. Asked if the ability to easily provide Internet to other Town Hall offices might open the door to increased use of technology, Cervoni said, “It may.”

“It may be for everyone’s benefit,” he said. (203) 317-2224 Twitter: @Andyragz

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