Last year, the Wisconsin Dept. of Administration (DOA) engaged in a new contract for our statewide transport network, formerly labeled “BadgerNet Converged Network” or simply, “the BCN.”  AT&T won that bidding process and has taken over management of this network as the single, Managed Service Provider (MSP) for what is now just called “BadgerNet.”

The soft transition of services was nice, as those of us right in the middle of it all did not have to scramble (too much) to address any major issues by re-planning, reconfiguring, and/or retiring.  The new contract calls for some significant upgrades across the entire network.  From the perspective of a library, this will manifest as a Bandwidth increase, typically moving up from 5-20Mbps to 50-100Mbps without affecting budgets.  In theory.

We’ve moved through more and more overt actions in the Transformation project, with many libraries having already received onsite “technical surveys” and many of those receiving reports back of any steps needed to support the next steps in service upgrades.  And here’s where that “in theory” comment becomes meaningful.  We’re starting to see reports of action needed by libraries, to update their local facilities.  Anything from simply connecting a ground wire to an existing rack to adding in backboards, a new equipment rack, power outlet(s), grounding services, and if possible, just build a new library to make things easier… (joke).

Now I believe we’re at a good place to converge our initial experiences working with AT&T and TEACH staff and still get well in front of what is shaping up to be a doozy of a project.  There are 71 library sites included in the BadgerNet Transformation project across Indianhead Federated Library System (IFLS) and Wisconsin Valley Library Service (WVLS).  Thus far we’ve collected reports from AT&T for 17 of those sites.  Of the 17, 4 are in the clear and 13 need to take some action to update local facilities.  This is not a trend we’d been expecting based on the language surrounding the BadgerNet upgrades last year.

Until recently, the definition of our internal project, to help member libraries navigate this process has been a bit of a moving target.  We are now seeing the shape of need a bit more clearly and thus the formation of process and project is now in the works.  The goal, deduplicate efforts across member libraries and minimize any direct costs to libraries as much as possible.

We’re working with TEACH and AT&T to ensure we have as much up-to-date information as possible, then will move quickly into action.  Strategies include coordinating similar facilities update projects across multiple libraries with local contractors (approximately regionally), coordinating equipment procurement as appropriate, and working to help relieve the burden of unplanned expenditures to the extent possible.

Now that we’ve better clarity on the nature of this massive statewide network upgrade project, and the parts we’ll need to play in order to benefit from it meaningfully, you’ll be seeing more and more general status updates, and individually you’ll be receiving library-specific communications as we work to coordinate group efforts.  It’s just a massive rework of networking that involves lots of moving parts, some unexpected costs, a surreal amount of backchannel communication, more confusion that clarity, and tons and tons of mindful work.  Just business as usual, no big deal.

Submitted by Joshua Klingbeil.