OMUfibernet is gaining in popularity across the city and, with that popularity, Owensboro Municipal Utilities is continuing its expansion of fiber optic, high speed internet access throughout Owensboro.
In 1997, OMU placed a fiber ring around Owensboro to better serve its communication needs. Afterward, in a push for economic development, OMU began using that fiber ring to serve the city’s needs and, after that, they included their customers’ needs as well.
Of course, things have evolved dramatically since 1997. OMU’s communications and public relations specialist Sonya Dixon said OMU forayed into residential wireless internet at one point because there was an open market for it in Owensboro, but, in better understanding the fast-paced phenomenon that was the internet, it didn’t take OMU long to redirect its mission.
“It evolved pretty quickly, and we got out of that business, and it made sense,” Dixon said. “But, you know, we still have this fiber backbone and so Chris [Poyner, superintendent of telecommunications at OMU] and his group started looking into the feasibility of bringing fiber to the home. The costs had come down, there was new technology, so we revisited that and said, ‘Hey, it makes sense for us to start looking into this.”
Dixon and Poynter moved “deliberately” in the process of introducing OMUfibernet to the area piloting the program in the Town & Country neighborhood, located on the southwest side of town off Tamarack Road.
“That was an opportunity for us to check the technology, make sure it worked with our system. First and foremost, we wanted to provide quality service. We hold ourselves to a standard with electricity and with water, and it’s no different with OMUfibernet,” Dixon said. “And I think that’s part of the popularity.”
Costs were appropriate, targets were met, lessons were learned and OMU found that fibernet was a technology that worked very well, Dixon said.
OMU decided to continue its growth with fibernet. Dixon and Poynter said they’ve received positive feedback from a large percentage of their customers, and are often asked when OMUfibernet will be available for neighborhoods and areas that don’t have access to it yet.
The plan in expanding OMUfibernet has been broken down into deliberate phases and steps that revolve around a geographical chart that divides Owensboro into sections. Currently, customers living in the NOC section of the chart have access to OMUfibernet. This section covers a wide area that includes much of Owensboro’s west end.
OMUfibernet is being expanded to include another large area that winds down U.S. Highway 60 (former bypass) from Scherm Road to West Parrish Avenue and stops east at South Griffith Avenue. Fibernet should be available to this section, SUB E, by mid-March, Poynter said.
So far, Dixon and Poynter said they’ve connected nearly 600 residents to OMUfibernet, which meets their predicted metrics.
OMU was recently approved by city commissioners for an easement with the purpose of installing underground fiber optic lines at a 3022 W. Parrish Ave. property. While installing fiber optic lines can require underground installation, Poynter said that’s not always the case when installing OMUfibernet in new areas.
“We follow electric, so if electric is on the poles in the neighborhood, that’s where the fiber is going,” Poynter said. “So there’s no need to dig anything up. However, if it [electric] is underground, that’s where we go ahead and do some boring (drilling).”
When OMU is required to go underground with fibernet, they set up a piece of machinery accompanied by a section of piping topped with drill bits, which all go under the ground to a predefined depth. The bore head follows a person who walks along the surface with a guiding unit, and the bore head traces their steps underground.
“The good thing about that is we can go under people’s yards and not have to come up and they don’t even know it,” Poynter said.
With OMUfibernet making strides across Owensboro, Dixon and Poynter say there are many reasons to consider it. A non-intrusive set-up process, having a combined bill that includes internet with a customer’s water, sanitation and electric payments, its convenient adaptability to fit each customer’s unique residence, clarity in pricing and high-speed consistency are a few of the benefits Dixon and Poynter named.
Customers can choose from 50 Mbps ($49.99/month), 100 Mbps ($69.99/month) and 1 Gbps ($99.99/month). Dixon and Poynter said most people don’t need more than the standard 50 Mbps and — another plus, according to Dixon and Poynter — OMU will never try to upsell their customers or pressure them into paying more for something they don’t need.
Dixon and Poynter said for “cable-cutters,” or those who’ve chosen to stream TV and movies rather than pay for cable, OMUfibernet is a good fit because even at the lowest internet speed of 50 Mbps, streaming, downloading and uploading content is achievable, and at a quality level.