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Leaders Learn About Connected Community Needs

Leaders Learn About Connected Community Needs

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 25, 2018)

Ferndale,  MI – Does your community need more fiber?  The answer is likely yes according to Emily Dabish of Rocket Fiber who was among the speakers at Main Street Oakland County Main Street’s “Connected Downtowns” Conference on Feb.  15. Fiber is the foundation of internet and connectivity, and Rocket is among those that want to expand their fiber network in SE Michigan.

Along with Dabish’s presentation were discussions about technology and internet-based infrastructure needs and concerns.

Deputy County Executive Phil Burtolini opened the conference, stating “connectivity is primary to having many services work.”  Access Oakland is the County’s cloud – the home of many services that the County and the municipalities in it use in day to day operations.  Among those highlighted were CLEMIS which connects law enforcement agencies, Property Gateway which is a database full of information about residential, commercial and municipal properties, and Enterprise GIS which uses location data for a number of applications, including mapping the opioid crisis.

The conference highlighted the need for cities to understand what technology and services are available as well as the benefits of working collaboratively to grow the systems that connect everyone in the region.

Burtolini urged community leaders to pay attention to legislation about technology infrastructure.  One bill, HB 5099, he said “impacts our abilities to set up our technologies like broadband.”  The bill prohibits using any federal, state or local funds to provide internet service, with some exceptions.  ARS Technica has written about this bill and the impact it has on the state.

Municipalities also need to be aware of how new technology is set up. Some communities are learning to deal with wireless service providers who want to put poles and other infrastructure in public right-of-ways.  A recent Michigan Municipal League presentation tackled this issue in detail.

John Anderson, Director of Wireless and Mobility Solutions Practice at Access Interactive of Novi talked about how IoT (Internet of Things) technology is revolutionizing communities, and what concerns have been.  “Internet of Things” refers to how everyday objects connect to the web to send and receive data, ideally to improve service and convenience. A basic example is the way cell phones use data to guide navigation services.  Other examples used by cities are street lighting, streaming videos, analytics, machine monitoring, security and hot spot services.

Wireless technology can help track employee whereabouts and efficiency.  Wifi tags can track assets like equipment and even valuables such as artwork. From a public safety perspective tags can track the position of first responders in emergency situations.

The biggest challenge, Anderson said, is security.  “IoT systems are vulnerable to attacks that can wreak havoc on transportation systems, public safety and city infrastructure,” he said.  “We have a lot of work to do to keep communities safe.”

Often the challenge comes from trying to run various services on one system.  “Compatibility issues” mean that sometimes systems cannot connect, or if they do connect there are vulnerabilities.

The physical infrastructure is also a concern.  How do you grant physical access to cables, routers, cameras and other connected tools?  How do weather conditions affect the components?  How do cities and private companies effectively run cables and other parts of the system without impacting the landscape?

“There are strategic ways to overcome these, but it takes a lot of planning at the front end,” Anderson said.  Funding is also an issue, he said, but collaborating and sharing information between communities can help avoid redundancy and learn from each other’s successes and mistakes.

Companies like Rocket Fiber work with municipalities to lay the groundwork for the IoT.  Not only is security and speed important, but so is access.  Investment in fiber can mean more businesses for communities as well as better quality of life for residents.

Dabish said that with the internet making it less crucial for people to live in specific places for work, skilled employees are choosing where they live based on amenities. Cincinnati, for example, has broadband that Metro Detroit lacks, so people move to where the service is.

“Usage of data doubles every six months,” she said, emphasizing the need for the infrastructure to support it.

Rocket is building infrastructure in Detroit and the Grosse Pointe area. While they are not yet building municipal service in Oakland County, they can work with individual businesses for technology solutions, and they are hoping to expand in the area.

Main Street Oakland County, who hosted the conference, can help connect member Downtowns to County Services and other resources for building up their online capabilities.

Learn more about Main Street Oakland County at

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