Barry Electric’s goBEC fiberoptic project has literally made miles and miles of progress since it began a project to supply Barry Countians with fiberoptic internet technology, setting up modems in Cassville, Exeter and the Roaring River area to date.
“We have about 1,000 modems that are live [in those areas],” said J.R. Smith, goBEC manager. “Our first customer was Cassville schools.”
Overall, the work has had a continuous flow, Smith said, but was a little slower in Cassville than expected.
“Cassville took a chunk of time because there’s a lot of streets,” he said.
Work in the Roaring River area was completed about six months ago, and mainline cable construction in Exeter was just completed, wrapping up Phase 3 of an 8-phase project.
“All that’s left in Exeter is finalizing electronics, and that’s scheduled for mid-November,” Smith said. “Crews test every fiberoptic glass through the network, then we have Finley Engineering, who partners with us, look it over and ensure all lines pass. Once that is determined, we start turning on the electronics.
Exeter residents, many of whom are rural and have limited options for internet service, were waiting outside goBEC’s doors the day they were able to sign up for the fiberoptic service.
“We had people waiting in the parking lot,” Smith said. “In Exeter, Mediacom pulled out years ago, and all they had was CenturyLink or satellite for internet service. One of the more excited Exeter customers was the Davidian 7th Day Adventist Church near the Bashan Hill area, because they communicate a lot, and throughout the world, have a publishing company and were very limited in communication. We had a town hall meeting and there was lots of interest there.”
Work crews are now focusing on the Washburn area to get customers online, which will start Phase 4 and after completion will mark the halfway point of the project.
“We’re already putting drop lines to homes,” Smith said.
Mainline construction is expected to take a little longer than four months, due to the terrain.
“Washburn will be a challenge with its woods and rough terrain,” Smith said. “There are a lot of hills and valleys, so we’ve been working really hard getting right-of-ways cleared out. But, overall, the people we’ve gotten easements from really want the fiberoptics. It’s also one of our larger territories.”
Seligman, one of the project’s smallest phases, will be next.
“We’re hoping we can get into Seligman by summer of next year, depending on what kind of a winter we have,” Smith said. “Then, we’ll go into Jenkins, where we’ll be changing out and upgrading a lot of poles and upgrading 100 miles of power lines and power grid in Jenkins and Shell Knob. So after Seligman we will have a nice route to get started on in Jenkins.”
goBEC will be holding a town hall meeting at Seligman City Hall Thursday 5-8 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., for property owners to ask questions or sign easements that will allow Barry Electric to complete work in the area.
While terrain has posed challenges, probably the biggest, Smith said, have been from competitors.
“Our competitors have signed people up [for lengthy contracts],” Smith said. “For example, say lightning struck and damaged equipment and a resident doesn’t have money to replace it. The competitor will say, ‘We’ll replace it, but you have to sign a contract for two to three years’ — and I have heard of contracts up to five years, so because they are bound to the contract, they can’t switch in time.”
Or, competitors will offer new equipment.
“DirectTV uses Genie, and DirectConnect uses the Joey and the Hopper,” Smith said. “They’ll call and say, ‘We’d like to upgrade your equipment to the newest and best,’ but when you do that, you’re locked into their contract year after year.
Smith said while a competitor might use new equipment and a less expensive monthly bill to hook them, customers are typically required to pay quite a bit to get out of a contract, costing them a lot more on the back end.
It’s also important for residents to remember that internet technology is always changing, Smith said.
“Because the demand for speed increases every year, what works today will not work two or three years down the road,” he said. “Location plays a part, too. If you’re only getting 5 megabits per-second, and you get a new Smart TV and are wanting to watch the Olympics in 4k video quality, you’re required to have at least a 20 megabits per-second internet connection, so you couldn’t do that.
“In the old days, a 5-megabit connection was sufficient, but as time has passed, and all our phones and TV’s became Smart devices and Netflix was invented, and all that takes up more bandwidth.”
That’s where Barry Electric is able to step in and help rural residents keep up with internet technology by bringing internet solutions at the speed of light.
“That’s why we exist today,” Smith said. “Larger companies want to invest in more urban areas, so with us being in a rural area, they’re not going to do anything because it’s less homes per pole, but we’re already out there with the power, so we take advantage of that and put up fiber and bring it back to Cassville.”
Wheaton will be next in line.
For more information about the project, people may call the goBEC team at 1-866-847-2333, Barry Electric at 417-847-2131, or visit www.gobec.net to see all phases of the project.