Bloomington lays 'digital underground'

Bloomington, Ind., is trying to insure its future in the new economy by

building a citywide fiber-optic network, yet has a plan to keep the ensuing

road disruption to a minimum.

The city's Digital Underground plan, announced Thursday by Mayor John Fernandez,

is a strategy to entice technology companies to the area, said Michael Chui,

the city's chief information officer.

The three goals of the program are:

* To jump-start competition among telecommunications providers.

* To protect the city's right of way as well its attractiveness.

* To provide for the city's communications needs.

"The new economy has been driven by information and we recognize that advanced

telecommunications must be part of the infrastructure," Chui said.

The city has already begun to lay a communications conduit along its rights

of way as streets or sidewalks are repaired. When telecommunications companies

consider relocating to Bloomington, the city hopes the pre-existing lines

will give them an edge. Plus, the city hopes the cost of laying the lines

might be offset by future lease revenues from the companies.

Next, the city plans to build a conduit ring around the center of town.

Finally, the actual fiber will be installed. Before the city can construct

the ring, the City Council must approve $185,000 in funding, the city's

share of an agreement with Kiva Telecom, whose conduit route will run parallel

the city's.

Bloomington also announced that it plans to build a "telecommunication hotel,"

or a facility to house servers and equipment for high-tech companies. Officials

hope the hotel will be yet another way to recruit industry.

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