Chickens, peaches, and college students. Those may be the first things that come to mind if you have ever visited Clarksville, Arkansas – a small town of about 9,200 residents situated at the foot of the Ozarks.
Clarksville’s largest employer is a Tyson poultry facility. Every summer, Clarksville hosts the oldest food festival in the state, the annual Johnson County Peach Festival (which was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic). And, just two blocks north of downtown Clarksville is The University of the Ozarks, which gives Clarksville a bit of that college town flavor.
But, if you ask Clarksville Connected Utilities (CCU) Business Development Director Barry Sellers, he will tell you: “the biggest thing we have [in Clarksville] is this fiber network. That’s why we put up a billboard right off I-40 that says: ‘Clarksville is Arkansas’ first two gig city.’ I get calls weekly asking if it’s true.”
Yes, it’s true. Last summer CCU began the last step of a Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) build-out with the project already nearing completion.
“We are starting to light people up, about 200 so far. We should be able to have 1,000 customers lit up and being served before end of 2021,” CCU GM John Lester told us last week, adding that they have a 30% take-rate so far and are hopeful that as many 50% of the city’s 4,300 potential residential and business customers will sign up for service within the next 3 to 4 years.
Birth of a Network
It was in 2013 that CCU operators were looking for a way to provide better connectivity for its utility operations and its Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, which monitors and manages its utility infrastructure. After studying what kind of network to put in place, CCU found that a fiber network would be the best fit.
“What made the most sense was to build a fiber network and in 2015 we built our core network,” Lester said. “We lit up our SCADA network and now we can literally run our entire water system from a smartphone.”
But what was really smart is that CCU administrators were thinking beyond simply enhancing the town’s utility operations and envisioned how the network could serve residents in other ways by building a FTTP network to... Read more