High speed fiber optic network construction under way in Harford

In less than a year, Harford County will have a high-speed fiber-optic based network connecting its government buildings, schools and libraries.

Ted Pibil, acting director for the county's information and communication technology department, updated the county Economic Development Advisory Board Wednesday morning on the HMAN (Harford County Metro Area Network) project.

HMAN, an $8 million project, will upgrade the county's computer network and serve as a communications "backbone," Pibil told members of the advisory group during their monthly meeting at the HEAT Center in Aberdeen.

The project will hopefully provide improved services available to local businesses, as well, he said.

More than 100 miles of fiber-optic cable is planned for the project, Pibil said, hooking up "about 150 institutions in the county."

Rather than going wireless, Pibil — and the county — believe fiber optic cable is the way to go.

"Verizon is very much disinterested in doing wireless any more," he explained. Fiber optic cable also gives more flexibility in how it is used, he said

In the north end of the county, however, Pibil said the network will be wireless for the last mile.

HMAN should provide several economic opportunities, he continued.

"Broadband is the next infrastructure in bringing business into the county," Pibil said.

One opportunity that could potentially attract business is what is referred to as "dark fiber," which is when the cables are not "lit up" or activated and a company can create their own private network.

Pibil called this "a revenue opportunity for Harford County."

The network will be made up of three "rings" which will have offshoots of fiber going to different areas of the county.

Ring 1 is primarily in the Bel Air and Forest Hill area, making its way from Route 924 to Jarrettsville Road and the Harford County Sheriff's Office Northern Precinct, then back to Bel Air. The county is planning to have this portion completed by July.

The Core Ring is slightly more northeast, circling from Forest Hill, through Hickory and around Harford Community College, then down Route 22 to Bel Air. Pibil says this ring should be done by fall.

The final ring, Ring 2, connects the Core Ring to Route 155 through Havre de Grace, then to Aberdeen and down Route 40 to the new Southern Precinct in Joppa. Ring 2, which should be completed by March 2013, will be 60 miles worth of fiber.

"The focus Is building the rings," Pibil said, and then the laterals.

Jim Richardson, director of economic development, called HMAN "a whole new opportunity for connectivity."

Pibil agreed, saying it "opens up doors" for new technology.

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