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Loma Linda’s Connected Community Program Sets A New Standard

Tom Henderson writes for Network World and can be reached at thenderson@extremelabs.com.  James Hettrick is director of information systems for the City of Loma Linda and can be reached at jhettrick@lomalinda-ca.gov.


Today, many communities have multiple broadband provider choices. These include phone companies offering DSL, cable TV companies providing broadband cable, wireless providers of Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi mesh hotspots or cellular broadband, and dial-up access services. Each of these vendors can wire a residence or commercial space to receive their services.
But there are only three ways to connect a computer to them: a phone jack, Ether-net jack or wireless connection. Some organizations have all three, purchased for backup and reliability purposes or simply for mobility.
The City of Loma Linda, home to Loma Linda University, considered how broadband/communications assets affect a community and then took action.
The Loma Linda Connected Communities Project (LLCCP)
In 2003, Loma Linda embarked on an interesting mission: to transform itself from a largely university-based economy and community into the fastest and most organized communications-based community in the nation. The goal was toenhance quality of life for Loma Linda’s 20,000-plus residents and develop assets that technology businesses could leverage for economic development purposes, rivaling even the most advanced university campuses in the country.
This ambition had to be backed by the Loma Linda City Council and would cost money. An additional step was required as well: finding a return over their projected life on the assets that would be deployed.
Loma Linda decided on a public-private partnership with builders of new residential and commercial developments. Loma Linda would drop multiple fiber optic loops around the city. In turn, builders would cable new construction to a standard (now called the Loma Linda Standard) dictated by new building codes for fiber and low-voltage wiring adopted by the city council.
These standards mandate that residences and commercial space be wired in a similar manner for data as well as electricity. Each residence, apartment or commercial space would have data jacks in each living and work space. This raised the cost of a typical new residence by $3,500. In turn, the builder would deed back right-of-way assets to the city.
Loma Linda trenched fiber to each new construction project. Now every new community within Loma Linda contains a highly secure intermediate distribution frame as well as the network cross-connecting gear tying the community or building spaces to the city network.
In turn, the city network has become a utility capable of delivering gigabit broadband to each new home or office space in the community, a feat that many university campuses — often considered the most progressive networks — can’t touch in terms of speed. The deployed assets are then deeded back to the city. No homebuyer or office space lessee is denied the opportunity to bring in DSL, broadband cable or other Internet/broadband connection. But why would they, when fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) delivers data at least 50 times faster than cable, its closest competitor?
Adoption rates have been very high among new residences and commercial users, running above 60 percent, which is remarkable considering that an incumbent carrier exists.
Network Serves Community in Multiple Ways
The strands of fiber linking new communities terminate in the Loma Linda City Center in a state-of-the-art network operations center (NOC), where space for service providers is co-located along with several other important links. Loma Linda will soon connect to the high-speed Internet II network, as well as the university/research community-driven National Lambda Rail.
Municipal services also use this infrastructure; public safety and public services connect to the NOC. Wireless links, which will eventually cover most of the city’s eight square miles, also connect into the NOC. Everything from traffic light cameras to public park security cameras also uses this system.
Loma Linda plans to put local libraries online as well, with additional links for other distance learning and education. The ultra-fast digital links promise the ability to virtualize educational resources, and Loma Linda’s LLCCP network recently won the Innovation in Networking Award in Gigabit Applications from the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California. Loma Linda also won the 2005 FTTXcellence Award given by Corning, Inc., and Lightwave magazine; and the 2005 Broadband Properties Cornerstone Award, which recognizes achievements in broadband and telecommunications for residential multifamily and planned communities.
Looking Ahead
Loma Linda receives a return both directly and indirectly on the assets it has deployed. The city council recognized that addressing economic development and civic quality of life issues requires taking a long view. Fiber optic networking infrastructure has had a long asset life; if you deployed fiber 20 years ago, you’re likely to still be using it today. Copper cabling and wireless offerings have progressed, but can’t deliver community distribution at the speed and cost of fiber.
Loma Linda found a way to implement wiring standards for new construction, connected to a public-private business model. The payoff is that the data trip through Loma Linda will be lightning-fast with a return on assets that fiscal officers and taxpayers love.
About the United States Connected Communities Association
The United States Connected Communities Association (US-CCA) was formed in 2005 as a communities-driven organization that serves as a repository and information forum for issues related to communications assets and broadband growth. The founding members include Loma Linda, community groups throughout the nation, and vendors and consultants with community-specific products and solutions.
The US-CCA conducts workshops and conference events designed to provide guidance and examples of successful community network designs. The US-CCA and the Communities TeleStructure Initiative recently co-sponsored a California Broadband Roundtable held in conjunction with the spring VON (Voice-On-the-Net) Conference in San Jose, and will sponsor or co-sponsor additional roundtables in western regions through the end of 2006.
      For more information, visit www.extremelabs.com/US-CCA.