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TMCNet:  Fiber optic network to boost job hopes

[January 11, 2013]

Fiber optic network to boost job hopes

Jan 11, 2013 (Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Franklin is poised to launch service for its fiber optic loop around the community, a tool that should help bring more jobs to the county.

"It's hard to recruit industry now if you don't have (fiber optics)," said Dennis Griffin, industrial recruiter for Simpson County. "A lot of industries, particularly in this area, are satellite plants connected to their corporate offices, somewhere else in the United States. They all need to be connected by fiber.

"So if you don't have that, it's hard to compete with communities that do," Griffin said. "Ten years ago, you could get by with T-1 lines -- now most industries are just expecting that you have fiber." Carrying capacity in fiber is described in gigabytes, as opposed to megabytes on a T-1 line. Gigabytes allow for faster transmission of large amounts of data.

"We are super excited about it," said James McCaslin, associate vice president of academic affairs and director of Franklin-Simpson Center. "It will be like going from 1970 to 2013 with the flip of a switch." The center, a division of southcentral Kentucky community and technical college, is essentially renting the fiber strands, with its Internet provided by the contractor of the technical college system.

Tim Ross, who is part of the staff at the center, as well as a student, said he is looking forward to the switch.

"You can sit in class now, and if everyone tries to log onto the Internet at once, it slows down the speed tremendously," Ross said. "The same thing happens at businesses. Fiber will increase speeds regardless of who is on there." The system will benefit current students and those students' prospects in the job market.

"It definitely will provide the potential for more job opportunities," Ross said.

Ross said he could see something like a data bank, where companies store their data off site, being established in Franklin as a result.

"A friend of mine started a data bank in another community and that was one of the things he looked for was whether or not it had fiber," he said.

Griffin said the Simpson County Industrial Board has some prospects on the horizon that will benefit from the fiber network.

"Our industrial parks are pretty far outside (the center of town) and we haven't had fiber there. It's been an important utility we were missing," Griffin said. "So we are extremely excited, as are our industries, about getting fiber to these various places. Some of the inner community has had access to fiber, but most of the community has not." Griffin is appreciative of the city and the money it has invested in the project.

Franklin in 2005 received a $1 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration and has invested another $1.4 million in the project, according to Mayor Ronnie Clark.

Clark said others, including Tammie Carey, did much of the work to get the system up and running.

Carey, who helped write the grant and is now fiber services manager for Franklin Municipal FiberNET, said crews are finishing the final work with grant money, which has included constructing network buildings to house equipment, stringing fiber on utility poles and other work.

"All of the fiber is in the air, splicers are in and we have a testing crew in town to make sure the system is working properly," Carey said. "They should be done in two weeks." One customer is already using the system -- the giant Tractor Supply Co. distribution center. Fiber access was one of the company's requirements for locating there.

The fiber is being fed Internet service by Windstream.

"We have looked at every aspect of the system and tried to build redundancy into as much of the system as possible," Carey said. "There are three loops of fiber cable built around the city; there is redundant equipment in various locations around the city, and there is a primary and back-up company in place providing Internet service. So for the next phase of the project, the city is requesting proposals from companies that will make future customer connections, respond to emergency repairs when they are needed and ... assist the staff of FiberNET to monitor the network and provide support services." Those proposals are due into the city no later than 3 p.m. Jan. 29.

For now the service is just for business and industry, Clark said.

A feasibility determined that it did not yet make sense to take fiber to homes, Carey said.

They have, however, discussed the possibility of having a Wi-Fi umbrella over parts of town.

"But no plans have been made," Carey said. "We want to know how to crawl before we run the marathon. So we want to do one piece and make sure we are doing it well." ___ (c)2013 the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.) Visit the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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