Grant to create a better Internet connection for municipal services | New

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State money will improve Internet connections in municipal buildings and services on the North Shore.

Funding, totaling $13 million, was awarded to 86 municipalities.

Danvers and Gloucester are two such communities, and their new funding will also be used to support fiber optic connections with other municipalities.

Danvers’ $300,000 prize will be used for new high-speed fiber optic connections between the city and Essex, Middleton, Hamilton, Wenham, Topsfield and Manchester-by-the-Sea, which make up the North Shore IT Collaborative.

The grant will also allow Danvers IT to set up and maintain a regional data center for these communities, which would essentially act as a cloud provider for municipal data.

Danvers leads the strategic direction of the collaboration. The city’s IT department supports collaborative members in asset refreshes or small projects that these communities might not have enough staff to do on their own, as well as grant writing.

Collaboration members pay Danvers for these services, said Colby Cousens, Danvers’ IT director.

“The spirit of it is collaborative, so it’s not meant to be profit-making,” Cousens said. “It’s about us collaboratively reducing costs and Danvers collecting a small amount of net revenue.”

The new funding could also mean a better connection to the North Shore Regional 911 Center in Middleton, which some members of the collaboration use.

“The idea is that we could connect to it and enable fiber optic cable connection to a number of communities served by the facility,” Cousens said. “We haven’t reached final negotiation on this with (the center) yet, but we have engaged with them and discussed the possibility now that the funding exists for this.”

In Gloucester, $459,672 in state funding will lead to new high-speed fiber optic connections between municipal offices and city departments and to Rockport, Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Ipswich.

Currently, these communities have their own Internet connections which they pay for separately. With the grant, they will be able to purchase one large fiber optic connection that can serve them all, said Ryan Knowles, IT manager for the City of Gloucester.

“By literally establishing a physical fiber optic connection between these cities and towns, we can essentially share the bandwidth and buy a large internet connection and share it between the communities, saving taxpayers money.”

Gloucester is the lead municipality for the project. The city aims to start the connection through Essex, whose IT is supported by Danvers.

“Basically, by making that connection, we’ll be connected throughout Danvers,” Knowles said.

The new high-speed connection would also help Gloucester’s public access station, 1623 Studios.

A better internet connection would allow the station to control multiple cameras that record meetings or events happening simultaneously around Cape Ann, Knowles said.

“The 1623 only has a limited number of employees and possible locations, but by connecting to the fiber optic with a high-speed fiber optic connection, they do not need to send someone physically there,” Knowles said. “A person could do, for example, multiple meetings, but that requires that kind of high-speed throughput.”

Contact Caroline Enos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.

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