Last week, members of the Houston City Council hired a company that will help speed up connections to its Fiber-to-the-Home internet system that began construction about two years ago.
The council has budgeted $14,000 for citywide work, which is divided into zones to make monitoring the system more manageable. Each is called a PON – which stands for Passive Optical Network. Each has a cabinet that allows service technicians to focus on one of the areas.
Randon Brown, the city’s chief technology officer, says the city is currently focusing on two phases south of Highway 17 that include residential and commercial customers. The first section has been under construction for several months (known as PON 3 North) and is nearing completion with the required splicing in a few weeks. The last remaining phase (PON 3 South) is currently being tendered and includes many additional underground works which tend to slow things down due to the digging permit process, labor and necessary machinery.
Houston had hoped to tap funds for incremental construction costs from the state’s broadband infrastructure grant program. When the winners were announced on Monday, most of the $261 million went to rural telephone companies and rural electric cooperatives. The only successful beneficiary in south-central Missouri was the Steelville Central Office which serves Iron, Crawford, Washington, and Dent counties.
In PON 3 in South Houston, the work will consist of contractors operating main distribution lines on city-owned utility poles. Once completed, quality checks are carried out. The next step involves fiber optic splicers who will splice the main distribution lines into a black cylinder seen on the poles which is known as the “dome box”. These lines return to the cabinet where they are spliced to connect everything to the rest of the city network. The final step for third-party contractors is to test the network for quality assurance to ensure it is ready to serve customers. “This step is very important to make sure the fiber crews in the city don’t run into any issues when they’re in the field,” says Brown.
In Houston, PONS 1, 2 and 4 are enabled and customers can sign up, Brown said. (See map)
CONNECTION, INSTALLATION PROCEDURES DESCRIBED
Once the quality assurance tests are completed, the city teams contact a client. An on-site guided tour is scheduled to assess the location and network to determine what the customer’s needs are.
If the location includes a business or commercial entity, there is an additional questionnaire that must be completed by the customer’s IT personnel who understand their specific network needs. Brown said this allows City of Houston staff to allocate programming resources to ensure the client’s business needs are met. Once complete, City Hall staff configures the account information. This ensures that billing and services are set up correctly for billing services.
In the meantime, the city’s electrical crews will splice a fiber line that runs from the home/business to the cylinder enclosures located on a nearby utility pole that corresponds to that particular home. City crews splice the fibers within the dome enclosure, which is a complex process that involves careful preparation of the cable.
City crews will then place a box on the side of the home/business, known as the NID (Network Interface Device). A fiber optic “pigtail” (an endless fiber) will be connected from the line to the NID. City crews will drill a hole in the client’s home/business. A fiber jumper cable will run from the NID inside the house and terminate in a wall plate attached to the wall.
Another fiber patch cable will be routed from the wall plate to the router, also known as the “ONT” (Optical Network Terminal). City storm shelter staff then do any programming necessary to ensure services are live and working properly. The city’s teams will take photos of the work carried out which will then be uploaded to the client management system to ensure the quality of services. The work is then finished. Billing notifications are emailed to the customer.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CITY’S FIBER PROJECT
Questions, Answers About Houston’s Ambitious Fiber Project
A fiber-to-the-home Internet project for the City of Houston is the most ambitious public service effort in Houston’s modern history. When complete, homes and businesses will have access to speeds that rival those of metropolitan areas.