Crossing the Channel

It sounds straightforward: providing the Charlevoix School District with technology upgrades to 79 classrooms (SmartBoards, classroom A/V and document cameras), along with a fiber network to connect facilities, new switch infrastructure, wireless access points throughout the schools and a districtwide telephone system.

The logistics, though, were unusual: A channel runs through downtown, connecting Lake Charlevoix to Lake Michigan. To make the fiber optic cable connection between schools on the north and south sides of town, we had to pass that channel. There were no easy options: Going around the nine-mile-long lake wasn’t practical, and the passageway over the channel is a drawbridge (no way to connect the fiber to the bridge). The premium lakeside property is privately owned; we could not excavate to get a conduit underwater.

The strategy: We partnered with the City of Charlevoix, which had access to an abandoned gas pipe under the channel. (A high-speed Internet provider, located downstate, was also interested in this solution, because this path is part of their only viable fiber route between the Mackinac Bridge and Traverse City in northern Michigan.)

The Charlevoix project wound up as a consortium between the school district and local agencies, and set the foundation for a high-speed network interconnecting many buildings – among them, schools, libraries, and city and county offices.

Paul Twigg

“Few people in technology get to work on schools, university buildings, libraries, manufacturing plants, military bases, and college stadiums! Variety at Barton Malow keeps work interesting and provides a broader perspective for innovative solutions.”