While other fiber deployments around the country are seeing pandemic-related delays, that's not been the case for Owensboro, Kentucky's municipal fiber utility, which has gone from 1,000 subscribers in February of this year to more than 1,800 today. The network has ambitious plans to increase that number to 3,700 by next summer.
Owensboro Municipal Utilities (OMU) has taken a deliberate, steady approach in expanding the network since the 2016 pilot program. Residents and businesses in the community are signing up at a faster rate than anticipated, says OMU telecommunications superintendent Chris Poynter. The utility had not expected to reach the 1,000 mark until late spring.
The Messenger-Inquirer reports that at a recent Owensboro Utilities Commission meeting, Poynter told commissioners:
Beginning next month, OMU will work to provide internet service to its third segment, or a large portion of Owensboro, The new segment, which will extend the service to about 3,800 potential customers, will run east from South Griffith Avenue, with Griffith Avenue and East 20th Street as its northern borders and College Drive and West Byers Avenue as its southern borders, to Breckenridge Street.
Construction on the third segment is scheduled to start in January and end around May 2020.
Poynter said there is a backlog of about 110 customers, with a waitlist that extends into late February and early March. About 14 percent of potential customers are using the service. Poynter said customers on the waiting list are completed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“Business is growing and doing well and having a backlog and the problems that Chris mentioned are problems of growth,” said General Manager Kevin Frizzell at the meeting.
OMUFiberNet offers three tiers of service with all speeds symmetrical:
- 50 Mbps for $49.99 per month
- 100 Mbps for $69.99 per month
- 1 Gbps for $99.99 per month
Subscribers also pay a one-time installation fee of $49.99.
OMU plans to blanket the city with Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and expects to finish the project by 2023.
Close to connecting subscriber number 500, Owensboro, Kentucky’s OMUFibernet is also ready to continue expansion to more neighborhoods as they develop their publicly owned Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) gigabit network.
In 2016, Owensboro Municipal Utilities (OMU) decided to experiment by engaging in a pilot project that offered gigabit connectivity to approximately 500 premises. The project also allowed businesses within the geographic areas to lease fiber if they chose a more flexible option.
The success of the pilot project encouraged OMU to expand OMUFiberNet to the rest of the city. Now that almost 30 percent of potential subscribers have signed up, OMU is ready to move into yet another neighborhood. OMU Telecommunications Superintendent Chris Poynter recently told the Messenger-Inquirer:
"We have been very deliberate in how we grow our service area. It has to be both cost-effective and fair. What we really did not want to do is cherry-pick desirable demographics. What we said from the very beginning was that we are a municipal utility and we’re all about serving the community, so we’re going to let technology and cost determine how we deploy it."
OMUFiberNet offers three tiers of service with all speeds symmetrical. A one-time installation fee of $49.99 applies:
50 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $49.99 per month
100 Mbps for $69.99 per month
1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) for $99.99 per month
"Can We Go to Grandma's?"
Subscriber Connie Singer and her grandkids have been using OMUFiberNet for about a year; Singer moved into a new home that was already connected to the network. Her grandchildren are gamers, she says, and OMUFiberNet provides “the fastest Internet service she’s ever seen.” The symmetrical gigabit service allows the household to run two gaming computers at once.
She also likes the fact that all her utilities, including Internet access, are on one utility bill. “It’s amazing,” she says.
OMU installed fiber optic infrastructure in the...Read more
Owensboro’s municipal fiber network could begin serving more customers this spring as it moves from pilot to citywide project.
Fiber Pilot Success Leads to Expansion
The residential Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) pilot project began in 2016 serving only a single neighborhood. Now, after a successful first phase, Owensboro Municipal Utility (OMU) is installing new fiber along the electrical grid and urging potential customers to sign up for the expanded service.
The city itself has been utilizing fiber infrastructure to support electrical grid functionality since the late 1990s. OMUfibernet was originally conceived in 1999 to better serve the business communities needs. After recognizing the need for similar improvements for households, their residential FTTH pilot began in 2016 by connecting 500 residents with gigabit symmetrical Internet service. The pilot also allowed business’ to lease fiber, giving them greater flexibility in data transport speeds.
The first municipal network in the country was established in Kentucky in the 1980s. Those humble beginnings have led to a state with an impressive residential FTTH network coverage. Often, deploying a well-crafted pilot project like OMU’s leads to successful citywide coverage. The Electric Plant Board in Franklin, Kentucky, unveiled a similar project in May, but we've seen these FTTH pilots happen in many communities. Rural cooperatives increasingly use pilot projects to perfect their designs and systems when they decide to offer Internet access to members.
Pilot programs also allow municipalities and cooperatives to determine the level of interest before committing to large infrastructure investments. With a chance to monitor the service, entities can carefully plan their next steps in a fiscally responsible manner based on public response....Read more
From the rolling Appalachian Mountains to bustling city streets, Kentucky has it all, including gigabit (1,000 Mbps) service from Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks. That’s right, Kentucky - the state that is often used as shorthand in America politics to talk about coal country and poverty - actually has some of the fastest, most reliable Internet service in the entire country. We put together this map using the latest data sets available from the FCC to highlight how much of rural Kentucky has the gold standard in high-speed Internet service.
Cooperatives Cover Kentucky
This is just a brief snapshot using the June 2016 Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) Form 477 data set. This map shows all the FTTH infrastructure available in Kentucky according to the data submitted by ISPs. This data is reported on the census block level and may overstate coverage. Even so, the data reveals how cooperatives provide high-speed Internet service to much of rural Kentucky.
|Cooperative||Estimated Fiber Footprint*|
|Ballard Rural Telephone Cooperative||148 square miles|
|Duo County Telephone Cooperative||134 square miles|
|Foothills Rural Telephone Cooperative||841 square miles|
|Highland Telephone Cooperative||431 square miles|
|Logan Telephone Cooperative||104 square miles|
|Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative||1048 square miles|
|North Central Telephone Cooperative||257 square miles|
|Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative||542 square miles|
|South Central Telephone Cooperative||762 square miles|
|WK&T Telecom (West Kentucky Rural Telephone Cooperative)||1019 square miles|
With the best intentions, Kentucky announced in late 2014 that it would build out a statewide open access fiber optic network to at least one location in each county to encourage high-quality connectivity in both urban and rural communities. Hopes were high as rural residents and businesses that depended on DSL and dial-up envisioned connectivity to finally bring them into the 21st century. After almost three years and multiple issues that have negatively impacted the project, legislators and everyday folks are starting to wonder what's in store for the KentuckyWired project.
Local Communities Are Best Suited To Deploy Community Networks
There is no one-size-fits-all method of deploying across a state filled with communities and landscapes as diverse as Kentucky. From the urban centers like Louisville and Lexington to the rocky, mountainous terrain in the southeastern Appalachian communities, demographics and geography vary widely. But most lack modern Internet access and local ISPs have found it hard to get affordable backhaul to connect to the rest of the Internet.
There are several municipal networks in Kentucky, some of which have operated for decades. In addition to Glasgow, Paducah, Bowling Green, Frankfort, and others, Owensboro is currently expanding a pilot project that proved popular. As our own Christopher Mitchell discussed at the Appalachia Connectivity Summit, several cooperatives have made major fiber-optic investments in the state.
When it comes to connecting residents and local businesses, we strongly believe local entities are the best choice. Local officials have a better sense of rights-of-way, the challenges of pole attachments, and the many other moving pieces that go into network investment. Projects with local support see fewer barriers - people are more willing to grant easements, for instance.
As a state, building an open access fiber network into each county makes sense. States also need to connect their offices, from public safety to managing natural resources and social services. Rather than overpay a massive monopoly like AT&T...Read more
Last fall, Owensboro, Kentucky, began constructing its pilot program to bring Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to a limited number of residents. Construction is complete and now the municipal utility is serving subscribers, much to the delight of folks in the city's Town & County neighborhood. There are 570 households and approximately 1,500 people living in the pilot area.
As of late January, 80 households had signed up for service with 15 now being served at a rated of about eight installations completed every week. Chris Poynter, superintendent of Owensboro Municipal Utilities (OMU) telecommunications division reported to the Board that feedback has been positive and that customers have been "…very happy with their speeds and the installation process."
All speeds are symmetrical - just as fast on the upload as the download - and there is a $49.99 installation fee. OMU offers three tiers:
- 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $49.99
- 100 Mbps for $69.99
- 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) for $99.99
OMU installed fiber thought the city in 1997 and two years later began offering high-speed Internet access and other telecommunications services to local businesses. OMU's goal is to serve a minimum of 20 percent of the households in the pilot area and if all goes well, the community will consider a city-wide project.
Home to about 58,000, Owensboro sits across the river from Ohio. The city is the county seat and center of a metropolitan area of about 116,000 people. OMU also offers electricity and water services.
Owensboro Municipal Utilities (OMU) is now expanding its Fibernet services with a pilot FTTH program to connect residents this fall. There are approximately 500 homes in the selected area where OMU will test out the new venture. People living in the project area can sign-up online.
Businesses in Owensboro have had access to OMUFibernet for data transport since 1999 and in 2014 the utility added VoIP to its commercial product line. The pilot will offer gigabit Internet access to residents, but OMUFibernet has only advertised speeds up to 100 Mbps to business customers thus far, according to the OMU website. Businesses are also able to lease dark fiber, which allows them to have more flexibility with data transport speeds.
The city, home to approximately 58,000 people, is the county seat of Daviess County and sits on the south side of the Ohio River. The entire metropolitan population is over 116,000 people. OMU has offered electric and water service since 1900 and describes itself as the largest municipal electric and water system in the state.
OMU plans to offer three tiers for symmetrical Internet access in the city's Town & Country neighborhood. Gigabit service will be priced at $99.99 per month, 100 Mbps at $69.99 per month, and 50 Mbps at $49.99 per month. All subscriptions will require a $49.99 installation fee.