Rocket Fiber expansion in GPPSS moves forward

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 12, 2019


GROSSE POINTES — Plans to add a high-speed fiber network in the Grosse Pointe Public School System continue.

On Oct. 28, Rocket Fiber announced via a press release that the company has been approved to construct a fiber optic network for the district. According to district Superintendent Gary Niehaus, the district has a maintenance contract, fiber optic ring contract and lateral contract with Rocket Fiber.

“The state-of-the-art fiber network will connect all of the district’s school buildings and deliver a 300-plus percent increase to current connection speed,” the press release states.

Rocket Fiber is a Michigan-based company that delivers multi-gigabit internet and connectivity solutions for businesses and residences.

“We are excited to work with Grosse Pointe Schools as we build out their new fiber network,” Rocket Fiber co-founder and CEO Marc Hudson said in a prepared statement. “An investment in a robust internet infrastructure demonstrates the district’s strategy of offering innovative learning models using technology. We are proud to be their partner on this important initiative, as it aligns perfectly with our mission to provide a faster and friendlier internet experience.”

The contract is estimated for completion prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year. Under the contract, Rocket Fiber will design and build a fiber optic network and provide GPPSS with approximately 40 miles of new fiber network owned by the district. GPPSS faculty, students and administrators will be able to access the new network.

Under the partnership, the district will allow Rocket Fiber to construct extra fiber expanding from the initial fiber ring. According to the press release, Rocket Fiber plans to use the excess fibers to make the company’s services available along the East Jefferson Avenue corridor in Detroit and the Grosse Pointe communities.

With the new network, the school district will triple its internet speed from 3 gigabits per second up to 10 gigabits per second and own a fiber network interconnecting its school buildings. The school buildings will have access to extra fiber lines that can be used to connect with other Grosse Pointe communities or be leased for additional revenue streams.

The school buildings will be on their own mesh-based fiber optic network. According to the press release, the newly installed fiber cables have an estimated life span of 25 years.

According to Niehaus, the project will cost the district approximately $2.1 million with free internet for 15 years and free maintenance for 20 years. No other fees will be involved. The system’s laterals will be funded from the sinking fund, and the general fund will cover the costs of the ring.

“GPPSS is one of six school districts in Wayne County who does not have their own dark fiber,” Niehaus said in an email. “We are spending $18 million in technology infrastructure improvements, plus BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in the middle and high schools. We will need more bandwidth to make it all work properly.”

According to a Rocket Fiber spokesperson, the bulk of the construction for the project will occur outdoors as Rocket Fiber constructs a fiber network, primarily attached to utility poles in the public right of way, to connect the district’s buildings to the network.

Once the physical network structure of fiber is laid on the approach to each school building, fiber will be brought into the building using existing utility entry points and pathways. The company has already started the project, which will continue through next summer.

As per the spokesperson, the build of the Rocket Fiber network will happen without disruption to the existing internet deployment. Comcast is the district’s current internet service provider. Once the project is complete, the district’s network team will cut over to the new network.

According to the press release, the Grosse Pointe schools that will benefit from Rocket Fiber internet include Grosse Pointe North High School and the district’s administrative team; Grosse Pointe South High School; Brownell, Parcells and Pierce middle schools; Community Campus/Full Circle Foundation; Defer, Ferry, Kerby, Maire, Mason, Monteith and Richard elementary schools; and the Barnes Early Childhood Center.

Trombly and Poupard elementary schools will not be connected, as both schools will close at the end of the 2019-20 school year. The district’s administration building will not be connected, as the district is in the process of selling it.