In Feb. 10 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
Duo County Telecom's estimated $14 million transition from copper cables to fiber optic cables, dubbed "Lightspeed," is well underway and will bring digital information to homes and businesses in a speed not seen before by Russell County customers, according to Eric West, the cooperative's director of marketing.
Fiber optic cables, which are made up of hundreds of long thin strands of pure glass about the diameter of a human hair, are replacing the previously installed copper infrastructure for telephone, Internet and television service.
"Most people are afraid of change," West said, referring to customers being shy about transferring over, but he reassured folks that the change will benefit them in the end.
The work began in November 2009, when Duo County began the project of installing the new cable to customers in the Jamestown area.
Most of Jamestown was transferred over last year with roughly 1,000 customers now switched over with facility service work on Russell Springs now underway. Work in Columbia will commence following the completion of the Russell Springs area.
"We've got plans to systematically get each wire center to where we are dropping wire at a customer's house," West said. The fiber optic cables will be directly from the home to Duo County's CO buildings, allowing for maximum bandwidth capacity.
"This is a huge step toward providing unlimited facilities," West said. "Duo County has been utilizing fiber for some years now."
West said the cooperative was, in a sense, tying much of the fiber in the county together in order to bring a more reliable service to its customers. These new cables has a higher bandwidth capacity and can transmit digital television, broadband and phone service and will have plenty of capacity left for future Duo County additions.
The old copper wires will then be removed from the poles all over the county as the newer technology is utilized.
"It is neighborhood by neighborhood that we work through and it is very dependent on our customers to work with us, to give us right of way to bring in these facilities and also to schedule those installments," West said.
The underground and aerial installs are being done by both Duo County Telecom staff as well as outside contractors, including Triple D Communications out of Nicholasville, because of the magnitude and size of the project.
Bret Hamilton, a supervisor at Triple D, said Duo County has been great to work with on the project.
"It looks messy for a little while but it will all be restored and they will have a faster Internet service," Hamilton said. He said after the old aerial copper wires are removed it will helps the aesthetics and landscape as well.
"When we get these facilities ready to deliver services we need more hands to cut people over to the service," West said. "It is a sizeable investment to make sure we're positioning the company to deliver the services people expect, and future services."
West said the more reliable fiber optics will allow customers more bandwidth with options up to 8 MB as well as five simultaneous high definition signals into a home. The new cables are less susceptible to lightning and electrical glitches that copper wires and can withstand the many forms of inclement weather. These durable fiber optic cables are expected to have a much longer life span and will allow customers the option of added features in the future.
Once the fiber optics are installed, Duo County will place an optical network terminal on the outside of a house. This box contains the electronics that convert a signal of light from the fiber into usable television, phone or Internet service and will also contain a battery backup in case of a power outage.
West said each home would now require a set top box for each television in the home, just like all digital televisions require now, and will allow for more customer interactivity through pay-per-views and video on-demand. The work on an average home with two or three televisions is roughly an hour and a half.
Duo County researched the project before its undertaking and followed several other U.S. telephone companies around the country while they undertook similar projects before embarking on this one.
"We did our research and reached out to some people," he said.
"We're giving more broadband at the same price," West said. "It is the telephone cooperative looking out for its members." He said while digital television prices may rise some, it is due to the annual programming fees from the broadcast stations.
"We're doing all this investment at no additional cost to the customer," West said of the project, which appears to be the largest Duo County undertaking since they purchased the cable company portion more than a decade ago. "The good thing is we're not going to raise service rates."
Echoing West's sentiments, Duo County VP/CFO Daryl Hammond said the company couldn't wait to offer these services to its customers as the need for added technologies seems to grow each day.