This blog was updated in August 2023.

Service Electric Cablevision (SECV) has long played a critical role in supplying bandwidth to the Central Susquehanna Valley, the northeast Anthracite communities of northern Pennsylvania, and Berks County in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Their network snakes its way through game preserves, state forests, and along back-country fire roads, connecting towns like Hazleton, Birdsboro, and Sunbury to America as a whole – and to the global economy at large.

But with the growing need for faster network speeds – especially in rural America – SECV realized it would best serve its region by futureproofing it with enough broadband capacity to withstand the test of time. Meeting those regional needs would require a technology partner that could infuse SECV’s existing network with high levels of speed, intelligence and resiliency.

So, SECV is deploying Ciena’s 6500 Packet-Optical Platform powered by WaveLogic 5 Extreme coherent optics, to quadruple the current capacity of its network and drive fiber deeper into its customer footprint, to provide a better user experience and support new services.

That’s how things stand right now. But the backstory behind the need for this leading-edge network still deserves telling.

Supplying Northern Pennsylvania businesses and homes with higher connection speeds

Businesses need greater bandwidth to remain competitive with the breakneck pace of global commerce, and this is no different in the areas SECV serves. The manufacturing sector, battered by COVID-19 throughout 2020, is beginning to experience a slow uptick in new orders. With factory and biopharmaceutical jobs anchoring much of the economy of northern Pennsylvania, the need to provide the region with greater bandwidth was self-evident.

But that wasn’t the half of it. Rural hospitals also needed high-capacity bandwidth to contend with the ongoing health scourge of COVID-19. According to a recent study by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), fewer than 10% of U.S. physicians practice in rural areas, where 25% of Americans live. Providing rural hospitals with greater bandwidth wouldn’t just let them perform at a higher level of functionality, but it would also promote leading-edge technologies like telemedicine. By adopting telemedicine best practices, rural hospitals could vastly reinforce and expand their areas of operation – so long as they have sufficient bandwidth to do it.

And that was just the business end of things. Long before COVID-19 struck the region, SECV was already planning to provide Pennsylvanian homeowners with the level of service that would deliver the same low-latency connection speeds that metropolitan hubs along the Eastern Seaboard – places like New York and Philadelphia – already enjoyed. The onset of COVID-19 (and the resulting stay-at-home orders) only exacerbated that need, with their bandwidth usage spiking by 30 percent – and showing no signs of abating.

Recognizing that a new model of business, healthcare and education was emerging – one that would outlast the pandemic that had spawned it – SECV set about developing a network that would stand the test of time, meeting the needs of its region over the long run.

By building a new high capacity, flexible grid optical network with Ciena’s 6500 platform powered by WaveLogic 5 Extreme coherent optics, SECV will be able to meet regional business needs by providing regional hospitals and manufacturing plants alike with high bandwidth 10GbE and 100GbE connectivity that can ramp up to 400GbE in the future. Likewise, it could meet the demands of homeowners clamoring for higher-quality connectivity by offering direct service speeds of 2G to consumer end users.

Ensuring network resiliency throughout rural America

Another key issue for SECV was the need for resiliency to ensure a high-quality user experience. Their customers need to know they can depend on their network. With much of their fiber infrastructure traversing isolated stretches of fields and forestland, SECV wanted to maximize uptime between its head-ends, thereby eliminating the threat of major outages before they could ever impact its end-users. This includes being able to quickly diagnose and repair any issues when they do occur.

To maximize network resiliency and ensure customer services are always available, SECV is implementing multiple levels of protection –including 50ms client traffic as well as optical path protection—realized with the flexible architecture options available with Ciena solutions.

Furthermore, Ciena’s PinPoint OTDR application will help SECV visualize its system in a way it hadn’t been able to before. This app allows technicians to quickly know where a fiber break occurs, a huge plus for the SECV operations teams responsible for keeping the network running regardless of isolated service areas – and sometimes inhospitable operating conditions.

Prioritizing collaboration above all else

But choosing to work with Ciena wasn’t all about better technology. By combining technology, collaboration, and innovation, we are proud at Ciena to be helping SECV thrive and grow – through COVID and beyond.