Decatur anticipates a new Fiber Optic Network


A map of the Fiber Optic Network layout across Decatur.

The city started the installation of the new Fiber Optic Network on Aug. 19. The construction is supposed to end in about 12 to 14 months. The change will allegedly make maintenance problems easier to solve and save the school district money.

“Fiber Optic Network is a lot of really rapidly blinking lasers and really thin strands of glass that connect our physical buildings, bring all of the data from our schools from our other administrative sites into our central office data walk-in closet, and connect us out into the world,” Eston Melton, the Executive Director of Information Services for the City Schools of Decatur (CSD), said.

According to Jason Wade, the Systems support specialist for the CSD, before last year the schools used AT&T for their wide area network. Then they switched over to a new company called Education Networks of America (ENA) that manages the Network while going through Comcast’s system.

Comcast Networks work by each site being connected to a Comcast center in the school. This caused problems for CSD because if there is an issue with one site the other signals can not get through to the sites. The new Fiber Optic Network is shaped like a ring so if one site breaks down they can just send information the other way.

Owning the network through lets the CSD control its internet speed without additional costs. Not having to pay additional costs means that the CSD will likely increase internet speeds according to Wade.“There’s not a month to month charge for this network because it’s owned by the city…So that’s savings that can then be translated over to providing more internet bandwidth.” Wade said.

It is much easier for CSD to repair their network when they own it because they don’t have to call ENA who then calls Comcast, they can instead hire repairmen privately who can come much faster. 

The city is partnering on the project with CSD. The city is lessening the 2 million dollar cost of the project, to only 1,346,500 after the CSD agreed to pay 653,500 dollars towards the network.

The Fiber Optics network is going to allow for other big purchases in the school system. Melton made this point at the April 16th Decatur Board of Education meeting 

“This is a chance for us to realize some savings over time, it is a significant upfront expenditure, but in the long run, this is a major capital project where we can either redirect savings or reduce or spending overall. I would like to redirect spending to some of our students facing projects.”

When asked about what specific programs he was thinking about he mentioned updating technology and 

Roadway traffic will also increase due to construction on the network. According to Decatur Makeover, the official website for Decatur Construction, “Street construction will be limited to rights-of-way.” (This means that if two cars are coming one will have to pull over and let the other pass.) 

“Plastic conduit carrying the fiber cable will be installed underground using directional boring to minimize land disturbance and impacts to trees, landscaping, utilities and storm drainage. Construction activities will generally take place from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and occasionally from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturdays. We appreciate your patience.” 

To access all the streets with coming construction and general construction information about the project click here.

In order to help pay for the project, the school is using the Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). SPLOST is used for capital projects and purchases for the schools. 

“It probably does come at the expense of other things we might wanna spend SPLOST money on.” said Melton on the use of SPLOST on the network. Melton also mentioned how the e rate program, a federal program meant to help schools pay for technology, will help pay for maintenance costs in the future.

Jason Wade said the city’s dispute with Comcast may have influenced the project.

“My understanding was that the network was planned out before the dispute with Comcast happened. The dispute with Comcast in my understanding, again I’m not involved with it, is that Comcast didn’t you know win… didn’t get awarded the project, so that was I think part of the reason for the dispute.”

When asked if the network was worth the 2 million dollar cost Wade said “I think it is…Its the scale of it, the number of fiber strands that are there is enough to carry the city and us well into the future.”