By John R. Schirmer
High-speed internet service is closer to reality for local businesses with approval of a project to extend fiber optic cable from Washington to Nashville.
“Nashville is a go,” according to Lane Powers of Southwest Arkansas Telephone Co. “Bids have been let and a contractor selected. Cable has been ordered and is expected to arrive in 16 weeks. Construction is expected to start in July, weather permitting.”
Powers said duct can be placed while waiting for cable to be delivered.
“Of course, weather conditions can affect construction schedules, but our plan is to have the project completed by the end of the year,” Powers said.
Once the fiber is in place, “Fiber vaults have to be installed. Extensions to the various customer buildings have to be constructed, and the connection of service within the building has to be completed,” according to Powers. “All fiber cables will have to be spliced and tested. All services will be buried, and much of it will be bored to pass under concrete streets and sidewalks.”
Planning for the project began last year. Howard Memorial Hospital CFO Bill Craig, who was Chamber of Commerce president at the time, began conversations with SWAT after a lengthy interruption of internet service in the Nashville area. The outage proved costly to HMH and businesses which relay on internet service.
Craig and the chamber set up a meeting with Powers and others from SWAT to determine local interest in fiber optic service. The company said at the time that commitments from about 50 businesses would be needed in order for the project to proceed.
“Our goal was to have adequate commitments for the project to break even over a period of years,” Powers said. “We reached our goal and made the decision to extend our services to Nashville.”
Although the service will initially be offered to businesses, some residential customers also may be included. “We have staked and approved a route through the most concentrated part of Nashville,” Powers said. “Any residences passed along that route will certainly be offered services. After completing the construction, based on interest and response, we will evaluate the next greatest area of interest in receiving our service.”
Powers said the benefit to customers would be “the fiber optic line and the speed it offers, from 100 Mb/sec to 10Gb/sec with no data overage, charges or data caps. In other words, the minimum speed we will offer will be 100 Mbps.”
Fiber is more dependable and weather resistant, according to Powers, and should provide “a boost to the economy and property values of Nashville to have the speed and dependability of fiber continuity all the way to the premises.”
SWAT has “contemplated doing this for several years. We are glad to have the commitments to make it possible for us to come to Nashville. We look forward to providing Nashville the excellent service we provide our customers. We pride ourselves on our service and expect to provide that same level to the Nashville community,” Powers said.