Barnesville invests $3.8 million in municipal FTTH

Great news for Barnesville MN…

Today more than ever before, consumers are demanding higher speeds for data delivery. Many people work from home over the internet and businesses, small and large, need faster internet speeds. Barnesville is responding by investing $3.8 million in a Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) project.

The City of Barnesville has owned the phone system for over 100 years. In order to be competitive with other cities and what kind of utilities offered, Barnesville has a consistent history of continually reinvesting in the cutting edge telephone infrastructure.

The City’s current copper system is capped at 1 megabyte of upload speed and customer feedback indicates we need a minimum of 3 megabytes of upload speed. Fiber is needed to retain residents and businesses. FTTP provides almost unlimited capacity for services such as HD, Netflix, gaming applications and much more all over the fastest broadband connection. In fact, download speeds of up to 100 megabytes will be available.

The project started at the end of April and should be substantially complete by the end of 2014. At this time, all residents should be up and running on the new system. While the estimated cost of the project is between 3.5-4 million dollars, it is not expected that taxes, nor utility rates will increase in order to pay for the project. Instead, it is being paid out of telephone revenues. The City’s investment in this cutting edge technology makes it less attractive for a competitor to overbuild.

The part that makes this project unique is that not very many communities in the United States have fiber to every property. As of the spring of 2013, the number of public and public/private fiber networks had reached 135. As of 2012 only 23% of Americans have access to fiber. In the United States, only one of every five households is within reach of fiber optics. Barnesville will be providing fiber optics to every single home and business in Barnesville, which will give them access to the faster internet. Only 130 municipal governments have built Fiber to the Premise projects.

The fiber optic update will have a tremendous impact on the residents and businesses of Barnesville. Fiber has the capability to transport virtually unlimited bandwidth, which means faster upload and download internet speeds. It is also considered to be “future proof” and offers the flexibility to deliver additional services in the years to come. Since fiber is made of glass and does not conduct electricity, it is not affected by the seasonal temperature changes, which results in greater reliability.

The City’s TEC Manager, Guy Swenson, who has been working tirelessly on this project for many years; Swenson said, “Everything is tied to the internet in one way or another, that trend will continue into the future. A key element in supporting that trend is the ability to provide the internet speeds that exceed demand.” Since the city was still operating on the copper telephone lines, it was difficult to achieve faster speeds.

In addition to sustaining their current customer base, FTTP will also allow the City to also expanding their residential and commercial bases. When asked if this project will be profitable in the future, Swenson was confident that it would turn a profit. He said, “In sustaining our current customer base and growing that base plus the reduction in maintenance costs associated with fiber will generate an increase in profits.”

Karen Lauer, the Economic Development Authority (EDA) Director, is very enthusiastic about this project. She thinks fiber will be key to attracting future economic development. In a recent Business Retention & Expansion survey most local businesses were concerned about broadband speed, reliability and cost. Lauer states, “As we’ve worked with more tech savvy businesses in recent months, higher broadband speeds have been a subject of frequent discussion, in large part because so many businesses are using cloud based applications and software.

Another opportunity that will come out of the project, is opportunities for telecommuters. Lauer said, “The most exciting opportunity with the Fiber to the Premise project is the impact on telecommuters – those folks who are living in Barnesville, but working from home, either full or part-time, utilizing the internet.” Many companies throughout the United States are looking to reduce costs, so they turn to teleworkers. In the future, Lauer hopes to use the FTTP project to attract individuals looking for high quality of life along with expanded career opportunities.

Barnesville has become very competitive in the levels of internet services it offers to its customers. Not only will this technology set Barnesville aside from other communities, but it will increase people’s satisfaction with their internet, but also their overall quality of life.

This entry was posted in Community Networks, FTTH, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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