Several communities in Kentucky have been managing publicly owned Internet networks for decades, including Barbourville and Frankfort. Residents and businesses depend on their great customer service and quality Internet access. Like everything else, however, telecommunications infrastructure ages and now both communities are considering how to upgrade.
Barbourville Going With Fiber
Barbourville, Kentucky, began offering cable Internet access to residents in the 1990s and were one of the first to offer cable TV service back in the 1950s. Currently, residential customers can opt for 6 or 12 Megabits per second (Mbps) with 384 Kbps and 1 Mbps respectively. Now, the public utility is upgrading to Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), which will significantly boost both download and upload speeds. Barbourville Utilities advertise identical commercial options for customers with an additional option of 25 Mbps / 2 Mbps. They also advertise symmetrical fiber optic business services that range from 6 Mbps to 10 Gigabits per second.
In their announcement, Barbourville Utilities estimates more than 4,000 residential and business customers will have access to the new FTTH service. They’re christening the new high-quality fiber Internet access “Blink” and construction will start on September 5th.
“We are extremely pleased to bring revolutionary Internet technology to our community,” Barbourville Utilities General Manager Josh Callihan said. “Increasing broadband access is a top priority in southeastern Kentucky and we are proud that our community will be a pioneer for this growth.”
Barbourville is located in Knox County in southeastern Kentucky, within the Appalachians. Like other communities in the region, Barbourville faces unique problems that affect rural economies. Fortunately, Barbourville Utilities have already established infrastructure and the personnel in place with expertise to manage a network. Their past decision to invest in a community network will help keep them stay competitive today as new businesses look for affordable locations with high-quality connectivity.
Frankfort Considering FTTH
Earlier this month, Frankfort’s Plant Board received the results of a study focused on the best way to move forward with upgrades. The triple play service has lost a significant number of cable TV subscribers as Frankfort customers are cutting the cord and migrating to online content. The behavior is not only causing a loss in subscriptions, but also taxing Frankfort’s copper HFC coaxial system. Consultants recommend upgrading the aging infrastructure to FTTH.
Consultants estimate upgrading the entire system could cost up to $44.6 million but they may be able to reduce that total by 25 percent with special brackets on utility poles. The current system, in place since the 1990s, would continue to serve the community as Frankfort designs and deploys the FTTH network.
The utility is now in the midst of upgrades for the current network that will extend the life of the system for five to seven years allowing adequate time for the fiber upgrade.
When discussing potential subscribers at the Plant Board meeting, members of the business community reminded board members that better connectivity is about more than retaining video subscribers:
Potential customers could include businesses, Kentucky Capital Development Corporation President and CEO Terri Bradshaw reminded board members during her later presentation on what companies look for when evaluating the sites of potential factories.
“Fiber optics is not an option anymore,” said Bradshaw. “Most companies expect it to be there when picking a site.” Bradshaw advised board members to continue keeping pace with the market.
Plant Board staff will look deeper into options and report back to Board members later in September.
Frankfort is the county seat of Franklin County and capitol of the state; the population is only about 26,000 people. The city is located in the north central part of Kentucky along the Kentucky River.
With the state capital in the city, public administration makes up the largest industry. Education, health, and social services are also a large part of the economy as is manufacturing and retail. In recent years, the community has focused on rebuilding its downtown historical commerce center. In addition to Kentucky State University, the community is home to The Bluegrass Community & Technical College with several other public and private colleges in the community.