For more than 10 years, public safety agencies in Polk County, Fla., have used an 800-megahertz trunked radio system linked by microwave broadband to communicate in emergencies, and to transfer data and use Internet applications in the field. Over the last few years, several other county departments began asking to use the network for wireless applications. However, the network did not extend to all the interested users in the county's 2,010 square miles, and bandwidth was too limited to accommodate them.

County officials investigated the costs of extending broadband connections to the departments in other ways. "We asked our agencies to get a quote for the service upgrade they wanted," says Ben Holycross, Polk County Radio Systems manager. "Some of them were connected with a 56K circuit, some had T1, some had DSL, and some were using a variety of sources from phone and cable companies. It was a real mishmash."

Meanwhile, county radio system managers found that they could upgrade the microwave backbone and add node points to support any end user location. By upgrading the existing network, the county could save money by eliminating continuing fees for other Internet service and improve the data connection speeds for all users. In December 2008, the county began expanding its system by installing equipment from Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola on its existing infrastructure. The project was completed by November 2009.

Today, 14 county agencies use the network for high-speed wireless service. The Sheriff's Department, for example, has begun using wireless video for prisoners' first appearance hearings, eliminating the need to transport prisoners to court. The county's Department of Natural Resources uses the network at its Circle B Bar Ranch, a nature preserve and learning center, to share large files, and staff can use their Internet-connected laptops during workshops in the preserve.

Polk County has more than doubled the amount of bandwidth its agencies were getting previously, with average data speeds up to 200 megabits per second. Also, the network is saving approximately $250,000 annually in recurring lease fees for T1 lines, cable or DSL.

Project: High-speed wireless broadband network
Jurisdiction: Polk County, Fla.
Agency: Emergency Management Division of the Public Safety Department
Vendor: Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola
Date completed: November 2009