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Smithville Digital bringing fiber optics to thousands of homes
[April 12, 2009]

Smithville Digital bringing fiber optics to thousands of homes

Apr 12, 2009 (Herald-Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Smithville Digital is taking a big step into the future. It is in the midst of a $90 million build-out that will put a fiber optic line directly into each customer's home.

Smithville Digital, a local telecommunications firm created in 2003, was spun off from Ellettsville's Smithville Telephone. The infrastructure upgrade, according to company officials, will give residential customers much higher Internet connection speeds and enable the future arrival of some very high-tech services.

Crews are now connecting homes in the vicinity of Union Valley Road near Ellettsville. The build-out will cover about 30,000 customers. Officials say the construction will not increase the cost of telephone service or basic broadband service. The upgrade will also mean that basic telephone service will no longer travel through copper wires, but through the fiber optic cable.

"Bandwidth needs have increased exponentially, especially looking at what's coming up with online streaming video," said Bob Phelps, director of Marketing. "It became very apparent that the only way to accommodate that was fiber." With a 100 megabit connection, Internet users can download large amounts of data in a flash. A user could download an hourlong TV episode from a site such as in about 30 seconds.

The company says it will be the first company in Indiana to offer that connection speed to residential customers. Base service starts at 20 megabits. They hope to have about half of its 30,000 residential customers outfitted with direct fiber optic connections within two years. The rest of them should be wired within about five years.

"Homes should be set for the newest technology for the next 10 to 20 years," said Smithville CEO and president Darby McCarty.

The connections can also be a boon to businesses in Smithville's coverage area. "We're enabling businesses, even small shops, to have world-class connectivity," said Cullen McCarty, Smithville executive vice president.

Smithville serves portions of Monroe County as well as Howard, Tipton, Boone, Hendricks, Morgan, Brown, Owen, Clay, Greene, Sullivan, Daviess, Martin, Lawrence, Orange, Gibson and Posey counties.

The data carrying capacity of the fiber optic cables also means the potential for expansion of services.

"We'll be able to provide any service that could possibly be provided," she said. That includes Internet service, home security, and even a service called IPTV.

Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is a system where a digital television service is delivered using Internet Protocol over a broadband connection. The medium allows for certain interactive features: For instance, viewers can search for content by title or actor's name or sports viewers can pull up player stats on screen while watching a game.

According to Phelps, Smithville hopes to begin offering IPTV service by the end of this year.

Smithville's actions are part of a larger wave of investment in telecommunications.

According to Geoff Schomacker of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, there has been more than $1 billion in investment in telecommunications infrastructure in Indiana in the last three years.

In addition, changes in state law are making it possible for companies like Smithville to break into the TV business.

"Telecom reform has opened it up for everybody to do this," said Schomacker. He explained that telecom deregulation in 2006 made it easier by streamlining the video franchising process -- moving video franchising licensing to the state level instead of the local level.

Smithville is opening a retail center in Ellettsville, next to the Orscheln Farm & Home store at the 3000 block of West Ind. 46. According to Phelps, customers can pay their bills there. In addition, they'll be able to sign up for (and test out) IPTV, Internet and other services.

To see more of the Herald-Times or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2009, Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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