MIAMI — Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College has basically gone from a Pinto to a Ferrari with its new fiber optic system.
The $1.7 million fiber-optic upgrade boosts NEO’s Internet speed from 1 gig to 10 and extends Wi-Fi service to the Synar Farm and Red Robertson Stadium — sites that had never had access to it.
It also provided for new firewalls and switches, meaning that outages in one area won’t bring the entire network down.
Security cameras have also been installed at numerous locations around campus.
“We’re pretty proud of it, and we had a good plan in place,” said Matt Westphal, interim director of IT at the college.
“We had lots of problems with it,” Westphal said. “In a lot of places, it was direct buried (meaning there was no shielding or protection for the cable), it was buried too shallow, or we didn’t know where all of it was.
“In the time Dr. Hale (NEO A&M President Dr. Jeff Hale) has been here, there has been a lot of remodeling and new construction; a lot of things happening on campus. When you go digging in the ground and don’t know where your network is, bad things happen.”
The initiative came from strategic planning committee meetings in 2015. The Wi-Fi issues were one of the top items mentioned.
The upgrade replaces a fiber optic network that was about 25 years old and maxed out.
“About a year ago, we rebooted whole fiber optic program, started from scratch,” Westphal said. “We started working with new vendors, new partners, new design — the whole thing.
“The objective was the same: to replace the existing fiber optic network on campus.”
Hale had said this was one of the more important infrastructure projects that this college has ever seen.
The college worked with Chickasaw Telecom and Telco Supply on the project.
“I don’t think we could have picked better partners,” Westphal said. “They helped us from start to finish with the design.”
He said the old fiber could only handle speeds of 155 megabits per second while the new fiber is running at 10 gigabits a second, which is 60-some odd times faster than what was available previously.
“The important part of that is the type fiber we put in the ground. They haven’t even been able to exceed or find the limits on how fast it can go,” Westphal said. “They haven’t been able to build the hardware fast enough to push this fiber optics cable to its limits. We should be in real good shape for the future.”
Westphal said the original price for the project was $2.5 million, but after switching partners and redesigning the plan from scratch, the project came in at under $1.7 million
“Not only were we able to get more fiber laid into the ground for future use, but we also managed to do it for less,” he said. “We were able to shave $800,000 off the cost of the project.”
A Title III “Strengthening Institutions” grant is paying for about two-thirds of the cost of the project.
The remainder is being paid through a $2 student technology fee.
“It lays the foundation for a bunch of other projects we have in the works that couldn’t have happened on the old network,” Westphal said.
Construction began the last week of May, and the deadline for completion was July 31.
“That was going to give us two weeks to work out some of the bugs before faculty returned on Aug. 14,” Westphal said. “We actually cut over successfully on the 30th. We were under budget; we were on time and had no major hiccups. It definitely was a proud moment for us and big for the college.”