Owensboro Municipal Utilities has offered fiber optic internet packages to both large industrial and commercial customers as well as residential since 2016, but they recently added small business rates to their array of services and have seen rapid success.
“Based on the success seen in our fiber to the home service, we noticed there was a niche in the business market that wasn’t suitable for the enterprise level,” said OMU Telecommunication Superintendent Chris Poynter. “Those customers are just trying to run a hair salon, or maybe have a storefront.
Not only was the detailed enterprise package more than the average small businesses needed, but the cost was prohibitive as well.
“Reliability and affordability are very important to us,” Poynter said.
So OMU started to roll their small business service, but only in certain areas at this time.
The difficulty with the small business service is the demand, Poynter said, noting that new customers are experiencing a three to four week delay in installation.
Despite the delay, customers are still electing to switch internet service to OMU. In May, OMU connected five new small businesses on their fiber optic plan, with several on a waitlist. Small business customers are not limited to the same geographic restrictions as residential customers, therefore installs typically take one to two weeks.
OMU’s jump into fibernet services began with a pilot program in the Town and Country neighborhood in 2016.
“It was very well received,” Poynter said. “It really promoted the fact the community likes this service, wants this service and that we should continue to grow.”
The pilot was expanded a few times before Poynter went to the City Utility Commission with the number of pre-subscribing customers interested in fiber to the home services, asking the board to bond $6 million for a city-wide build out.
The first build out saw 656 subscribers, equating to 14.3 percent of the potential customers in the area. The second release has only brought on 13 customers, but a software issue has caused delays that Poynter hopes to have remedied soon. The commission approved another section to expand fiber in the heart of Owensboro, which will be available in the near future.
Since March, OMU has more than doubled its fiber to the home customer rate, which is only expected to continue with bringing more areas of Owensboro online.
“It’s a fundamental piece of our business plan to at least achieve a 20 percent penetration rate across the city,” Poynter said. “Out of every 10 households in Owensboro, we would like to serve two of them.”
OMU, a public utility, faces national-level competition with AT&T and Spectrum, but Poynter says that those options are not true fiber providers as they rely on coaxial or DSL systems.
“Some competitors are telling customers you are getting 100 megabits, but the actual service you are getting at any point in the day can vary greatly,” Poynter said. “You may be getting 10 megabits when you are paying for 100, especially when there are a lot of people on the system.”
Service responsiveness is another benefit Poynter says OMU can offer, providing local technicians and troubleshooting.
“Word of mouth is the best story we can tell,” Poynter said. “When we provide that level of service to a customer that they are compelled to tell their friends, that’s exactly what we want to do.”