Eric Willard, an Entrepreneurial District 300 Employee

Maybe I should have entitled this “Another Entrepreneurial Employee” since I wrote a little while ago about Carpentersville District 300 energy czar David Ulm’s efforts to explore using windmills to offset electric costs.

After the District 300 legislative meeting during which pleas were made for the state funding for school construction which were assumed in the $185 million bond approved in 2006, newly elected State Rep. Keith Farnham (D-Elgin) was talking to Chief Technology Officer Eric Willard.

They discussed the possibility of commuter trains between Rockford, where Willard lives, and Elgin, among other things.

Impressed with what I heard about Willard’s plan for fiber optic linkage of the schools, I stuck around and got a fascinating presentation.

Willard has rented two dark fibers owned by the Illinois State Tollway Authority. This project was initiated in conjunction with NIU, that had similarly leased Tollway fiber down I-90, I-88 and is just about finished with linking the two systems to the third side of the triangle, I-39 (thanks to funds obtained from a federal grant).

The D300 fiber will connect from I-90 to NIU’s Hoffman Estates campus and then gain access to the Internet from them. This is how we’ll distribute the current risk from all schools in the district having their Internet access at DCHS.

At a current cost of about $88,000 a mile to bury new fiber to connect to the leased fiber, NIU has made quite an investment to connect their campuses in DeKalb, Rockford, Hoffman Estates and Naperville.

District 300 has rights to two strands beginning at the truck stop on I-90 at Route 20 and extending to Meacham Road.

My short course in fiber optic capacity taught me that eight colors will be transmitted over the fibers, allowing eight different connections each way.

If more capacity it needed, the electronics can be swapped out and up to 32 colors or message pathways can be used on the existing fiber, Willard said.

The new Hampshire High will be connected directly to the tollway cable and over-the-air connections will be made from there to the old high school, now a middle school and the grade school in town. Fiber already connects the new high school with Gary D. Wright Elementary School in Hampshire.

Willard wants to run a line up from the tollway to Dundee-Crown, where the the school district has its technology headquarters.

He is also talking to Kane County and McHenry County officials about the possibility of a joint project to run a fiber optic cable up Randall Road to serve the growing communications needs of the two counties and various cities and villages along the way.

His goal is for the cable to be laid when Randall Road is widened.

Willard has been approached by Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg for access to the cable strands that the Carpentersville School District is leasing.

Local law enforcement units are also showing interest in the opportunity.

I asked Willard if the District might bring in more money than it costs.

He grinned broadly and said he hadn’t mentioned that at this year’s presentation to legislators.

I wouldn’t lay odds that such an announcement might be made next year.

Finally, it occurs to me that if Crystal Lake gets its wish fulfillment of a new interceptor sewer, McHenry County College might want to pop for the cost of $88,000 to lay cable up Route 14.


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