Centennial's fiber-optic 'backbone' set for completion

Underground infrastructure provides faster internet, benefits for business, traffic


Four years after the project to create a system of underground fiber-optic cable throughout Centennial began, the city is on track to complete its construction by the end of 2018.

The forward-looking technology is expected to bring faster internet to residents and businesses and even change how responsive the city can be to traffic flows.

“In just six months, the city has leases with two internet service providers, the Cherry Creek School District and SEAKR Engineering, providing them the opportunity to create their own fiber connections and realize some of the benefits fiber connectivity can provide,” Mayor Stephanie Piko said in a news release. “We look forward to continuing this positive momentum, which will benefit Centennial residents and businesses.”

Centennial's fiber system first ran through the middle of the city — roughly from Interstate 25 to South Jordan Road — and is expanding through Centennial's east and west parts. The east and west “rings” of fiber in the city will be finished around December, Piko has said.

Since construction began in 2016 on the system — referred to as the fiber “backbone” — the deal with Cherry Creek Schools, announced in June, represents the first fiber lease for what the city calls a “community-anchor institution.” That's a term for entities like schools, libraries, health-care facilities and other places that serve communities. The city looks forward to connecting more of those institutions to the backbone, Piko said in a previous release.

“This move will allow us to expand and extend our existing fiber network using Centennial's infrastructure that is already in the ground,” Abbe Smith, spokeswoman for the school district, said at the time. “It is a great example of how collaboration and forward thinking can create new possibilities that benefit kids.”

In March, the city executed its first long-term commercial lease with Canada-based internet provider Ting. The company offers 1-gigabit service, which is 1,000 megabits per second speed for download and upload — performance that's impossible on cable and telecommunications networks that share bandwidth among large numbers of customers, according to Ting. It installed service for its first official customer in early September.

Ting builds its own local fiber network in certain neighborhoods by connecting to the city's fiber system, and it's the first internet provider to use Centennial's backbone. The service was on track around the fall to expand in the Willow Creek neighborhood and in nearby areas, according to Ting.

In October, the city announced it executed a lease agreement along the backbone's central ring with Avata Networks, which will lease one pair of fibers along more than 12,000 feet of the network, according to a news release. A focus of Avata Networks will be to serve the city's central businesses with enhanced gigabit-speed internet.

“We are excited to begin building last-mile infrastructure throughout the City of Centennial, and by leasing fibers from the city's backbone, it gives us the ability to accelerate our network turnup,” said Brian Snider, Avata's executive director, in the release. “We plan on starting construction in the spring of 2019 and to lease more capacity as our network expands across the city.”

Avata's focus is currently businesses close to Centennial Center Park, north of East Arapahoe Road near South Revere Parkway, according to Allison Wittern, city spokeswoman. Avata may expand its presence along the central ring in the future, Wittern said.

SEAKR Engineering, a Centennial-based aerospace manufacturing company, signed a fiber lease with the city to connect two of SEAKR's facilities.

The fiber backbone could also help improve the city's Intelligent Transportation System by sending information to drivers through dynamic messaging signs — the electronic customizable signs on roadways that display words with light.

The fiber infrastructure is also expected to enhance the city's upcoming system of traffic sensors, which will allow the city to time its traffic lights more accurately to traffic flows.

Fiber could even allow residents to age in place — in their homes — more comfortably by allowing doctors to remotely monitor signs like their blood pressure, for example, and letting residents communicate with family in real time, Piko has said.

Centennial fiber, Centennial Fiberworks, Centennial fiber optic cable, Centennial Ting, SEAKR Engineering, Avata Networks, Cherry Creek Schools, Stephanie Piko, Ellis Arnold


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