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Want Better Fiber Internet in Oxford and Lafayette? Join The Campaign.

Graphic from ConnectLOU.org
Graphic from ConnectLOU.org

A nine-member committee has begun a campaign to increase and improve the fiber internet accessibility in Oxford and Lafayette County.

District 1 Supervisor of Oxford, Kevin Frye is leading the campaign, called “ConnectLOU,” to answer his constituents’ requests for accessibility to high-quality internet.

Kevin Frye with Ashley. Photo from Facebook.com / Kevin W. Frye District 1 Supervisor Lafayette County MS
Kevin Frye with Ashley. Photo from Facebook.com / Kevin W. Frye District 1 Supervisor Lafayette County MS

Frye said, “I began meeting with interested members of the community in March, and we arrived at a few conclusions. First, access to broadband internet in the rural areas of our community is very limited and needs significant and immediate improvement. Second, speed and reliability of existing broadband infrastructure is lacking. While competing communities rush to invest in fiber, the LOU community is falling behind. Finally, we determined that interest in this issue was so great that a coordinated campaign was needed to help the various interested parties organize and communicate. We expect to officially launch our campaign, ConnectLOU, near the end of May. However, those interested in joining the campaign can visit ConnectLOU.org today and sign up for updates.”

One of the ConnectLOU’s campaigners is Stewart Rutledge, an Oxford lawyer who lives in Kevin Frye’s district. He fully supports fiber connectivity which wouldn’t come as a surprise to those who remember Rutledge’s city-wide campaign in 2013 for Oxford to be selected as one of the first cities to receive Google Fiber.

He said, “When Google announced fiber service for the cities, we didn’t know what all that meant, and all Google said was ‘Go apply.’ I then asked the city to let me lead the campaign to have Google fiber in Oxford. I felt we had the right combination: education, local and corporate businesses, the federal courthouse and the underserved community around Oxford. If Google wanted to help create social change…well, we qualified.”

When asked what is the biggest benefit of having fiber at home for him, Rutledge said, “Reliable internet without frequent breaks in service and the ability to work at home more effectively.”

There are also professionals in Oxford who work remotely who could benefit from having easier access to fiber services. Located at 1415 University Avenue, The Edison, a coworking office space that currently hosts 15 businesses, offers quality fiber services.

The Edison, photo from Facebook.com/ The Edison
The Edison, photo from Facebook.com/ The Edison

Web designer, James Kelleway, who designed ConnectLOU.org, said that fiber internet at The Edison was “definitely one of the reasons” that he chose the location for his work.

“I previously worked from a home office and had endured six months of outages and subpar performance, which was incredibly frustrating,” said Kelleway. “Hearing that the Edison had fiber internet was a big plus.”

With fiber internet, Kelleway can quickly exchange data with his partner who is based in Atlanta.

“I can download and upload files seven to eight times faster than I could previously, which really increases our productivity,” Kelleway said. “We also work remotely with a lot of clients. Being able to video conference without any hitches as been a big positive.”

He also commented on the benefits of fiber internet for media streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Hulu, Netflix and HBO Go to name a few.

“There is nothing more annoying than being halfway through an episode of your favorite TV show and hitting a buffering wall,” Kelleway said. “Fiber internet will not only stream media reliably but will be able to deliver it in the highest quality possible.”

Kelleway commented that if Starkville, Jackson, Madison, Ridgeland, Clinton and Quitman have fiber services or in the process of installing fiber, then “there is no reason why Oxford should be lagging behind.”

The co-owner of The Edison, Dr. Phil Baquie, said, “We offer high-speed internet to all our members. It is a crucial part of our business that our members rely upon for their businesses.”

He said that so far the businesses at The Edison love the fiber internet. “We cater to a lot of creatives who don’t have time to mess with slow internet due to high volume and large file loading, therefore part of the appeal of The Edison is our fiber internet,” Dr. Baquie said. “I recall Danny K, one of our members who owns a thriving photography business said, ‘You had me at fiber internet,’ when he signed up!”

Dr. Baquie states that fiber services are a must in Oxford and Lafayette County.

He said, “Fiber services are not [just] beneficial to professionals and local businesses in Oxford, they are essential and crucial if we are to be a viable marketplace within the state and the nation. Oxford is certainly a charming place to live but if we are to be competitive in attracting businesses and start-ups we need to make our technology attractive too.”

While the fiber to business internet is overwhelmingly seen as crucial to the local economy, fiber to home services can also benefit Oxford and Lafayette County residents.

Jon Maynard
Jon Maynard

The President and CEO of Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and Chamber of Commerce, Jon Maynard believes that fiber to home services are “an inevitability.”

“There was a time when electricity, running water and telephone service into the home were unheard of. Today they are absolute requirements. It would be better to be on the leading edge of the new technology than to be the last to adopt it. The balance that we have to make is the cost versus benefit,” said Maynard.

Currently in cities that have fiber with C Spire such as Starkville, the prices are as high as $160 a month for Starkville residents who chose a package of internet, television and phone services. AT&T U-Verse lists prices as high as $164.99 for an inclusive package of 1-gig internet with DirectTV and Digital Voice.

Maynard said, “(Fiber internet) has recently become affordable in areas that have the fiber backbone readily available. Providing that technology to a single home that is only one mile off the fiber line becomes cost-prohibitive very quickly. Oxford is blessed to have more fiber than most communities of its size. If the fiber is close to a neighborhood, then bringing it home is feasible and highly valuable. Whether or not there is an abundance of homeowners who will shed the old technology for the new is another story. In order for fiber to the home to be considered for neighborhoods requires commitments from homeowners. That’s where the campaign needs to be targeted. The costs and benefits need to be clearly outlined, and the individual homeowners need to be asked to commit to the technology.”

As many may remember from 2013, the city of Oxford declined a franchise agreement for fiber internet services from C Spire.

Ward II Alderman Robyn Tannehill
Ward II Alderman Robyn Tannehill

Ward II Alderman, Robyn Tannehill said, “We do not have a franchise agreement with C Spire for fiber to business services. Our right-of-way management ordinance and our telecommunications ordinance allow us to grant permits allowing them [fiber internet providers]  to be on our right of way.”

Tannehill said that several of the new neighborhood developments in Oxford are working to get fiber installed. She said, “It certainly provides another marketing tool for those residential areas. I believe that this service improves home values. It allows people to conveniently work from home.”

She said, “I am excited that several companies are providing high-speed internet service in Oxford. Oxford is one of the most densely populated, fasted-growing towns in Mississippi, making it possible to reach more customers with less installation costs. I believe companies willing to provide this service here will find Oxford to be a community that understands the value of the product and is willing to pay for it.”

When asked about possible cons to having fiber internet in Oxford, Tannehill said, “I guess if there was a con it would simply be that it is getting crowded under the ground making other utility maintenance more difficult. With AT&T, Verizon, Megapop, MaxxSouth, C Spire, water, sewer, gas and storm drains underground it can make things challenging. But the pros certainly outweigh the cons!”

Frye joins his fellow Adlerman Tannehill on the beneficial impact fiber internet would have for Oxford and Lafayette County for business and home use.

Frye said, “The benefits are vast, but the most important benefit would be to our local economy. Successful modern economies depend directly on connectivity. Available fiber to the home would demonstrate to modern industry, small businesses, young professionals and entrepreneurs that the LOU community is visionary and has a plan for the future. Reliable high-speed connectivity will also: enhance learning opportunities for our local students; increase home values (by some estimates as much as three percent); facilitate streaming of all types of home entertainment like TV and movies; and, assist the University of Mississippi in attracting high quality students and faculty in the STEM fields.”

When asked about possible cons, Frye said, “Leaders in our community recognize the necessity of remaining competitive with other modern universities, technology and health care dominated economies. While the logistics of fiber installation require cooperation with local governmental entities, I do not foresee any problem that cannot be overcome by thoughtful and forward-looking leadership.”

The ConnectLOU campaign will officially begin toward the end of May with a strong social media presence, according to Frye. To stay updated on the campaign, visit its website, ConnectLOU.org to sign up for email alerts.

This is part one of a three-part series covering fiber internet within the Lafayette-Oxford-University community. The second part will focus on the fiber internet providers within the city and county.

Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor at HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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