Four years ago I suggested we use the scheduled upgrade of our traffic system to fiber to upgrade Chapel Hill’s own communication infrastructure. May 21st, Council is prepared to approve funds. $500,000 to be exact, to move ahead with that tandem upgrade.

For a very modest cost, less, I believe, than what Council has set aside, our local government will free itself from Time-Warner’s monthly bills, increase capacity to the point of deploying new services – video conferencing, for instance – and provide a key economic incentive for information-based business.

Monday’s resolution spells out some of the initial benefits of the upgrade:

At the Town’s request, the State has approved funding in the 2007-2013 Transportation Improvement Program for rehabilitation and expansion of the Chapel Hill traffic signal system. The proposed upgrade project includes the following key elements:

  • Fiber optic communication cable
  • Closed-circuit television (CCTV) equipment at selected locations in the Town
  • New system detectors
  • Pedestrian countdown displays at locations with existing pedestrian signals
  • Replacement/upgrade of existing cabinets and controllers
  • New/revised signal phasing at selected locations
  • Emergency vehicle preemption at selected locations
  • Bicycle activated loops at selected locations
  • Transit priority on selected corridors (if desired by the Town)

The agreement also includes planning, design, and installation of additional fiber optic cable and associated hardware for Town information technology purposes. 

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) equipment at selected locations in the Town? That could be pretty creepy.

During my tenure on the Town’s Technology Board, I and others suggested the Town draft specific privacy policies covering the deployment of surveillance technology. Whether it is tracking a citizen’s Internet usage at the local library or video-taping their stroll down Franklin St., the Town must provide clear, unambiguous directives for the use and dissemination of this information.

I’ve sent our manager an email requesting more information on the CCTV usage. Even if it’s only for monitoring traffic patterns, I believe we need to establish clear, measurable guidelines for the capture and stock-piling of this information.

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