Demand for the fiber internet service offered by Owensboro Municipal Utilities continues to grow both for residential and business customers. OMU officials say they expect to have internet services available to the entire city of Owensboro in just over two years.
In large part due to increased activity at home during COVID-19, August was the second-highest installation volume to date for residential customers according to OMU Director of Telecommunications Chris Poynter.
The plan for installing OMUfibernet city-wide has been broken down into six phases that are based on a geographical chart that divides Owensboro into six segments.
Poynter said OMU is currently finishing up the fiber hubs in Segment 3, and they are preparing for upcoming Segment 4 construction.
New services have increased so much that OMU has passed their goal of reaching 20% of potential customers within the first two segments. Poynter said he expects Segment 3 to also have a 20% penetration rate eventually.
OMU’s communications and public relations specialist Sonya Dixon said they currently have more than 1,700 residential customers, noting that accounted for about 40% of homes in the city.
“During COVID we have seen a growth in that (demand for home internet),” she said. “So many people are working from home — you have a lot of students who are taking online classes, teachers teaching from their homes. You have a lot of people working from home. You see a lot of people who want fiber service for several reasons. It’s very reliable.”
Small businesses also continue to opt for OMUfibernet, with six more requesting service in August. That pushes the total number of small businesses customers to above 60, nearly all of which have come in the last year.
“The small business is a niche we carved out,” Dixon said. “I think customers are beginning to hear about it. A lot of their business is credit cards. They know they are not going to be down (with OMUfibernet). There is nothing worse than being in a business and your credit card can’t go through. A lot of these services are word of mouth.”
With the higher recent demand, there is a bit of a waiting list. While residents are able to get service relatively quickly, it takes longer to install service for small businesses.
“We do have a waiting list,” Dixon said. “We’ve been able to narrow that down as much as we can but within a couple weeks most people are getting connected. Small business takes a little bit longer. There is just more work involved. I encourage anyone who is interested in the small business to contact OMU and talk to them about that.”
The entire six-phase project is expected to be completed by the end of Fiscal Year 2023. Dixon said they have been deliberate in how they approach the expansion, keeping customers at top of mind while growing OMUfibernet at a sustainable rate.
“We are trying to be very frugal with how we do this and very systematic to keep our costs feasible for us and our customers,” she said. “We also want to maintain that quality. … We want to have the best interest of the community.”