News Release

Metropolitan-area Network Turns Sudbury into Leading-edge Wired Community

April 11, 2000 Through the establishment of a
Apr 11, 2000

April 11, 2000

Through the establishment of a metropolitan-area network (MAN) based on Cisco technology, the northern Ontario city of Sudbury is positioning itself to be one of the province's leading-edge wired communities, opening a wealth of new business and employment opportunities for its 95,000 residents.

Some thirty years ago, organizations seeking to establish roots in a particular city used convenient road and rail access to determine how successful they would be.

But today, access to information is what puts organizations on a competitive footing. The world of networking knows no boundaries. Businesses in remote locations can compete on an even keel with those located in large metropolitan cities.

"How do you level the economic playing field when you're located in a remote area?" asks John Jeza, manager, communications services, at Sudbury Hydro in Sudbury, Ontario. "Distance is definitely a factor of doing business, but through technology, distance is no longer an issue. The issue becomes how to leverage technology for the betterment of the community while building on the strengths of the community."

Through the establishment of a metropolitan-area network (MAN) based on Cisco technology, the northern Ontario city of Sudbury is positioning itself to be one of the province's leading-edge wired communities, opening a wealth of new business and employment opportunities for its 95,000 residents.

The MAN allows Sudbury to provide high-speed Internet access and increased bandwidth capability to local government, utilities, school boards, libraries, private businesses and citizens. With the MAN in place, residents can register online for city programs, students can conduct live Webcasts, and businesses can access data network services at 100-Mbps connections.

The Sudbury MAN, which went live in April 1998, began as an initiative of Sudbury Hydro in preparation for the electricity market's deregulation plans.

"Historically, municipal utilities have been used as a tool for economic development," explains Jeza. "But with deregulation, electricity becomes a ubiquitous service, available everywhere. Real-time information is absolutely critical. In a deregulated environment, customers are buying power by the hour, and it's no longer sufficient to have a bunch of guys running around in cars and reading metres. Although we owned the infrastructure - specifically, the hydro poles - we needed a high-speed, fibre optic network in order to remain competitive, one that would easily connect our 26 substations and support our customers."

Sudbury Hydro conducted an extensive survey to determine just what a suitable network could deliver. Among the options was to create a network for the electrical business only or to provide data network services for commercial customers, too. After a thorough cost-benefit analysis, option two - serving the needs of both electrical and business customers - proved the most viable option and a request for proposals (RFP) was issued to prospective technology partners.

"We had several important requirements," recalls Jeza. "We wanted a dynamic fibre-optic network that could interface with the rest of the world. We needed something that was upgradable, scalable and backwards-compatible, allowing us to grow as our needs dictated. And we wanted a community partner, one that would not only deliver the technology but would also make a commitment to the people by providing technical assistance and marketing expertise along with support for local initiatives. Cisco, together with Allstream (formerly know as AT&T), joined forces to create a state-of-the-art network that's second to none."

Sudbury Hydro is now providing high-speed managed-bandwidth data network services to 80 per cent of local businesses. Wholesale Internet is offered to local Internet service providers (ISPs) and to major institutions which require dedicated Internet bandwidth. The MAN has also helped establish Sudbury Hydro as a CA*net 2 point-of-presence site to hook up research organizations such as the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory to CANARIE, the not-for-profit, government-supported organization that has succeeded in enhancing Canadian research Internet speeds.

"The benefits of Sudbury's MAN are tremendous," says Jeza. "Our customers are no longer limited to traditional telco solutions like T1. They can now get 10-Mbps or 100-Mbps connections for transparent local-area network services. We're providing high-speed access in areas where there was no ISDN service before. And we've lowered the cost by a landslide. In fact, our customers tell us that the price of Internet access has dropped by 50 per cent since the MAN was set in motion. They tell us that we're as competitive as cities like Toronto, which meets our goal of leveling the economic playing field."

As a result of Sudbury Hydro's MAN, many exciting developments have taken place. The Sudbury Regional Network (SuReNet), a consortium of health, education, municipal and private groups, now purchases network services from Sudbury Hydro - the first step towards becoming a networked community.

"Before the MAN was created, most of our locations were not connected to city hall," explains Bruno Mangiardi, director of information services at the City of Sudbury. "Those that were connected did so via slow dial-up modems or via ISDN 128-Kbps connections through the Bell network. The four local municipalities that we service were connected through 56-Kbps connections. So when Sudbury Hydro built the fibre infrastructure, we jumped on the bandwagon. We now have all of our locations connected using high-speed fibre connections -from ATM connections into city hall to 1-Mbps connections to our smaller sites and 10-Mbps connections to our larger sites, with plans to go to 100 Mbps in the near future."

Sudbury students, too, are reaping the benefits of Sudbury's Cisco-powered MAN. At the Rainbow District School Board, for example, the boost in bandwidth has enabled students to interact with students around the world and conduct projects as never before. Recently, Rainbow District students watched a live Webcast of a lecture given by world-renowned astrophysicist Professor Stephen Hawking at the opening of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, while the previous day, students at Laurentian and other universities had to pay a fee to watch a similar lecture delivered from the University of Toronto over closed-circuit television.

Bandwidth-on-demand capabilities means the school board has the flexibility to expand and contract bandwidth on an as-needed basis, which has proven much more cost-effective than buying bandwidth upfront for only occasional use. Over 2,000 computer are connected to the network. An intranet server is used for access to administrative applications. For teachers and administrators, the MAN enables screen sharing for quick resolution of technical problems.

As a byproduct of the MAN, several call centres have been established in Sudbury, yielding hundreds of new job opportunities.

"When you're here in the North, people often ask if you can do the job," says Jeza. "The fact that we have a metropolitan area network makes a very clear statement that Sudbury does indeedhave the wherewithal to handle technology. With Cisco as our technology partner, Sudbury certainly knows no limits."

Barry Burke is Region Manager, Enterprise Line of Business, at Cisco Systems Canada Co. in Toronto. He welcomes comments at Visit Cisco Systems Canada at