Should Winter Park create its own fiber network? A task force that met on Tuesday is trying to answer that question.
Winter Park’s journey toward possibly creating its own fiber network began on Tuesday as task force members discussed the long road ahead to better internet in the city.
Last month the city charged the task force with looking into whether or not installing a fiber network would make sense for the city financially and what would be the best option moving forward.
Earlier cost estimates to cover the entire city through a network were between $18 million and $27 million, but Winter Park IT Director Parsram Rajaram said on Tuesday that the city should opt for a basic fiber backbone to connect the city’s municipal buildings first, which would only cost between $3 million and $4 million.
That network could be used by city employees and departments, while opening the door for options like “smart parking” – a system that could tell visitors and residents through an app where parking spaces are available around Park Avenue. A similar system currently exists at the parking garages at Disney Springs.
Another possibility would be “smart traffic,” which could adjust the timing of traffic signals based on how many cars are coming through, Rajaram said.
“There’s a four-way stop; there’s no traffic coming this way, but you’re stuck there for three minutes because of the light signal,” he said. “Smart traffic looks at it and says ‘Hey, there’s no traffic, let me turn this other side green.’”
From that basic network the city could someday look at offering the internet services to residents, Rajaram said.
Task force member and former City Commissioner Tom McMacken said whatever route they choose, it needs to be flexible to adapt to rapidly changing technology.
“By the time we do this, are we going to be a step behind or a step ahead?” McMacken said. “I hope this group recognizes what’s the step ahead and how do we implement that.”
Rajaram assured the task force that fiber is the best route for the city to take, not only for its security but for its longevity.
“Timing is very important for this project as technology marches on,” Rajaram said. “The question is: will fiber be a reliable means of transport for the next 10, 15, 20 years? From the research I’ve done the answer is ‘yes.’”
“For at least 50 years fiber is going to be a viable means of transporting data.”
The task force will meet again on Tuesday, April 18 at 9 a.m. in City Hall.