Fiber Optic: Rewards of the Ring

Julie Sherwood
Dr. Ben Wandtke, chief of Diagnostic Imaging for Thompson Hospital, looks at a patients film transferred by the fiber optic ring. This year, Thompson Health plans to expand its use of the ring, which allows them to transfer film faster.

Concert-goers this season at Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center will notice something new. Thanks to its new connection to the county's fiber optic ring, they will be able to share texts, Facebook posts, Instagram pics and all other social media platforms without interruption. CMAC will also be able to handle the simultaneous wireless needs of thousands of patrons and security and concert staff, said John O'Malley, public relations manager for the Upstate New York Region of Verizon Wireless. O'Malley said CMAC's connection to the ring allowed CMAC to become a "mini-cell site" — outside of the typical provider arrangement — to handle the volume.

CMAC's needs are indicative of what is happening everywhere, said O'Malley.

The entire telecommunications industry has "hit a milestone," he said. "All carriers are finding data traffic has exceeded voice traffic," O'Malley said. Verizon must invest millions of dollars each year to increase capacity to keep up with that traffic, he said.

"In order to deploy the latest and greatest wireless technology (4G LTE) , you need to connect it to a fiber network," O'Malley said.

Health Care

For some in Ontario County, the rewards of the ring are now routine. Take the way diagnostic images are zipped between Thompson Health facilities at the speed of light. When Thompson connected to the ring in 2009, it enabled the lightening fast transmission of digital X-ray images from Thompson's Urgent Care Center in Farmington to Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua.

In 2010, the X-ray department at the Urgent Care Center performed 3,237 X-ray exams. Mark Halladay, Thompson's director of Information Technology Services, said that for patients, "this connectivity means images taken in Farmington are immediately available to be read by radiologists at the hospital."

This year, Thompson Health plans to expand its use of the ring. Thompson Health Senior Network Engineer Rob Wallace said that by summer, the health system will switch its family practices in Victor, Shortsville and Honeoye over to the ring, saving money while having access to greater bandwidth, increasing the speeds with which data can be transmitted and received. Wallace said the ring will also be used for family practices in Farmington and Clifton Springs that will soon be joining the health system (pending state approval).

In addition, Thompson's new Women's Health and Wellness Center will use the fiber optic ring when the center opens in the fall, taking advantage of the high-speed bandwidth to send the data-intensive 3D mammography images to the hospital across the street.

"There's no other company that can provide this type of open-access connectivity to us at a low cost," Wallace said of Axcess Ontario, noting Thompson enjoys the peace of mind knowing that if damage were to occur to the fiber for any reason, the company — and not Thompson — would be responsible for repairing it.

Frank Korich, administrator for Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital in Penn Yan, says the concept is something the hospital is interested in, if it is a financially viable option. While S&S has a high-speed connection to the rest of the Finger Lakes Health network through Time Warner, Korich says they do not have the capacity or speed of the dark fiber ring. "We have had image sharing, integrated medical records, and business communications by high speed connection for years with Finger Lakes Technology. This new connection is a better solution," he notes.

"Images being shared are getting larger and larger with better resolution, there is more and more demand for bandwidth (capacity)," says Korich. "As data increases more and more, fiber is the best option. It is more robust, but we will probably keep the Time Warner connection as a backup. We like to have fail-safes in place in case the system goes down." Korich added, "We want the best for our patients, with quality of care and patient safety in mind," but also said, "It's an affordability issue."


In the academic arena, Finger Lakes Community College is also a big beneficiary. When FLCC tapped into the ring in the fall of 2009, it immediately increased its Internet capacity 250 percent.

When FLCC's Victor campus center opened in January 2010, the college installed a high-capacity secure private network connection to the main campus, meaning access to the network at the Victor campus was just as fast as it was at the main campus. The expanded service also enabled the phone system to transfer calls easily from the main campus to Victor, and vice versa.

Rick Evans, director of information technology at FLCC, cites on the Axcess Ontario website that saving money and improving educational experiences are major benefits of the ring.

"By connecting its main campus and campus centers to the ring, FLCC will be able to build a wide area network that allows for videoconferencing and state-of-the-art services," he said.

Keuka College's Assistant Director of Information Technology Services and Security Casey Kendall says the vastly increased bandwidth will allow the college to "leverage more research capacity" and bring in more digital learning, enhancing every classroom. For example, a 3-D representation of a living cell interacting with a virus could be interactive animation, allowing instructors and students to customize their own presentations and explore different scenarios.

Kendall also says there may be the potential to enhance programs at Keuka's international programs in the far east. Keuka may also be able to consolidate many technology services back at the home campus, including the secure system that hosts the college's webpage, and the systems than manage the online learning programs. The speed and capacity will allow systems to be set up and managed from other locations in the event of a disaster. Like Soldiers & Sailors, Kendall says Keuka is also looking forward to the failsafe redundancy of having multiple internet providers.

At the Smart System Technology and Commercialization Center, David Gottfried, STC's manager of government and community affairs, said Axcess Ontario enabled STC to double its speeds.

This ramped-up speed is used for web browsing, uploading files to websites, basic data handling, sending large files back and forth from Canandaigua to Albany and will soon to used when STC begins teleconferencing.

On the cost end, Gottfried said there are significant savings. Based on what STC was paying its former telecom/data service provider and getting slower speeds, the savings is between about $500 and $800 a month, with annual savings between $6,000 to $9,600. Gottfried added that due to the ring, STC was able to shop for the best deal. If STC had gone with its former provider to double its speed, it would have been more than double the price. "So if STC had doubled speeds and stayed with them, STC's savings with the new telecom/data provider would show to be even higher," he said, or closer to between $900 to $1,100 per month, or $10,800 to $13,200 annually.

"STC went out to bid and was able to go with the best price in this new, competitive market," said Gottfried. "It's good for us and good for our campus."

At Bristol Mountain Winter Resort on Route 64 in South Bristol, Operations Manager Debra Chociej said she learned about the ring years ago when ECC Technologies, county economic development officials and other promoters began releasing information and contacting businesses about the ring's benefits. Bristol Mountain connected with a provider, and this year will begin its new service via connection to the ring, she said.

"We will be increasing our bandwidth greatly while reducing our monthly recurring costs," said Chociej.


Yates County Planner Shawna Bonshak’s analogy to a sewer system in the first part of this series (published Feb. 12) is more accurately described as “The middle mile fiber can be likened to the sewer line that runs down your street. In order to connect your home, you need the sewer lateral off of the main line and that is what is called the ‘last mile.’ At this point, we are only providing the middle mile.”