Friday, April 20, 2007

Choosing an Engineer

Kevin Blanchard over at the Advocate published a story this morning on the selection process for an engineer for Lafayette's fiber to the home project. The essentials:
LUS Director Terry Huval said the firm will design every aspect of the network, from the overhead and underground lines to the connections at the main facility and end users.

In addition, the firm will help LUS define the bid specifications to be followed by prospective contractors. After construction begins, the engineers will help monitor construction, Huval said.

A professional services committee will take LUS's review of the applicants (there were thirteen) and choose three to pass on to Mayor Durel for his selection. The work load on the committee should be light: LUS says that only three of the applicants have the proper work history to qualify them for the job making winnowing down the list pretty straightforward. LUS also has a favorite: the Atlantic Engineering Group.

Atlantic Engineering is arguably the nation's premier Fiber To The Home (FTTH) engineering and construction group and is certainly the leading such company in the South. Their projects map reveals that they've been involved in many of the largest—and most successful—FTTH projects in the nation. Those who have followed Lafayette's progress closely will recognize Provo, UT (whose mayor has visited in support) and Bristol, VA (the city regularly maligned by Lafayette's opponents where the current issue is beefing up the system to accommodate unanticipated levels of success). Regular readers will note that Kutztown, PA, the little town that could (1, 2) is also a client.

The CEO, James Salter, has clearly focused the company on municipal operations and is a fiber warrior in his own right having been president of the Fiber To The Home Council and a regular speaker at conferences where municipal fiber could be defended. I saw him present at the Freedom To Connect conference in '06 and wasn't distracted by his "aw shucks" folksy Southern persona. Like sugar-coating on a bitter pill that persona did allow his message on the necessity of dense, municipal fiber to any robust local broadband network go down a little easier with a crowd enamored of "public-private" wifi networks. In the end he received a standing ovation. A later hallway conversation revealed that Salter was just as savvy about the way that the private incumbents blocked such projects and made it clear that he understood how to deal with such obstructionism.

AEG would make a fine choice. Things proceed apace...

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