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B'ville: District considers cable switch

Switching to copper network cables could save the Baldwinsville Central School District money.

John Cerio, the district's network manager, addressed the board of education about the district's network capabilities and technology questions during the March 31 meeting. Cerio explained the differences between fiber optic cables, which are currently used for most network cables in the district, and copper cables, which he proposed be implemented into all new network projects.

Fiber optic cables are made of glass, and are therefore easily broken and expensive to replace. Special training must be taught to maintenance workers to repair the fiber optics, and repairs can take over an hour to complete. On the other hand, copper cabling is easy to manage and much less expensive.

Cerio showed pictures of fiber optic cables currently in Ray Middle School and Baker High School. The cables were installed in the 1990s before much was known about the technology. The improper installations also cause the network to go slower than its full potential. The pictures showed the cables being pulled taut, banded together, and in some cases supporting other cables.

"That's a big problem," Cerio said. "All that weight will eventually cause the fiber to fail completely."

Cerio explained that all networks have three main components: the core, which contains all of the high-speed hardware and information, the distribution, and the edge, which is where the network actually reaches a device like a computer in a classroom. Currently, fiber optic cable is used to connect all three parts of the network. Cerio said that copper cabling should be used to connect the distribution to the edge, and that this is the general accepted practice most places.

Copper cabling will also enable the district's technicians to better manage the network without hiring additional personnel. This means adding more advanced security features and improving the speed of the network. Internet resources such as video and audio clips would be easier for teachers to use in the classroom because of the improved network.

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