Barry Electric fiber optic network project underway

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Workers from MP Nexlevel, LLC, based out of Maple Lake, Minn., work off of Bus. Highway 37 laying fiber optic cable. The contractor is laying the cable along a 17-mile area along Business Highway 37 from Barry Electric Cooperative to Highway BB. The project was designed by Finley Engineering and paid for by Barry Electric. Worker Virgil Bechtel said over 1,000 miles of the fiberoptic cable, which transmits a signal at the speed of light, will be laid, and that the high-tech cable can reach speeds of up to 1 gigabyte-per-second. The drilling began last Monday and is estimated to be completed around mid-February. Julia Kilmer

Lines being buried along 17-mile stretch of Hwy. 37

The latest Internet technology in the form of a fiber optic network is coming to areas of Barry County, promising to deliver an caliber of speed and quality to services residents use every day including Internet, video streaming, telephone, gaming and more, according to the Barry Electric Cooperative (BEC).

In 2010, after requests from members, Barry Electric began exploring the possibility of building a fiber-to-the-home communication network.

JR Smith, goBEC manager, said fiber technology far surpasses cable and copper options in terms of speed, quality and versatility.

"With this investment, we can also provide a fiber-to-the-home or business Internet service through the goBEC Fiber Network, a subsidiary of Barry Electric Cooperative," Smith said. "Our plan is to give every BEC member the availability to high-speed broadband service by installing a fiber optic cable directly into each home and business. That will be close to 1,100 miles of fiber."

Finley Engineering of Lamar was hired to design the network.

"Fiberoptic technology has the ability to carry high-bandwidth signal at long distances using light waves, replacing copper and coax infrastructure, and offers higher stability and less interruptions to Internet access, video programming and telephone," Smith said.

By comparison, the technology is also less susceptible to corrosion, power surges, temperature fluctuations, and it can even be submerged in water.

"Fiber is unquestionably the fastest, most versatile, high-speed Internet connection, delivering amazing web experience and crystal-clear communication," Smith said.

Fiber optic technology can also be upgraded by changing the electronics, or by using different lasers that can increase bandwidth without changing the fiber itself.

"That's why fiber networks are said to be future-proof," Smith said.

In practical terms, that means access to advanced communication like streaming video, Internet TV, video conferencing, smart home technology, IP video home monitoring, gaming, Tele-med service and more.

Smith said many providers claim they are using fiber in their networks, but do not provide it all the way to the home.

"This only means they have a hybrid connection that mixes a single fiber line with the aging technology of coaxial cable or copper-twisted pairs," he said.

The difference with the goBEC Fiber Network, Smith said, is that it will go all the way into a resident's home or business with a single strand of fiberoptic glass.

"Our fiber-to-the-home is a 100 percent fiberoptic connection," he said. "It can carry large quantities of data over long distances at really fast speeds. That is why we are able to offer the fastest, most reliable and highest-quality communications products available."

Smith said each fiber's signal, which is actually light, is reflected back to the fiber's center, meaning there is very little reduction in speed, regardless of distance, or even corners. Fiberoptics are also faster than wireless technology, because with wireless Internet, the further away the user is from the broadcast station, the weaker the signal will be.

Smith said pricing is not yet available, but the lowest Internet service package will be 250 megabytes per second, and there will be broadband Internet service offered.

"That is 250Mbps up and 250Mbps down, he said. "Our highest Internet package will be 1 [gigabyte per second]. Our competitors do not offer Internet at symmetrical speeds. Competitors may drop their prices, but that will not fix customer service. If you have any questions or issues, you can come to BEC office or call and talk to a local person. Our area has been neglected for too long and our focus is keeping our members top priority.

"We are negotiating with IPTV video and dial-tone voice providers to create packages. We will not force people into contracts. What you pay is what you get up front, so we may not seem to be the cheapest, but we do not have you tied down into a contract, then raise the price after the contract ends to force you to sign a new contract."

Rural customers will have access to the network, too.

"This is a five-year project and will give the availability to connect every single BEC member, no matter how far deep in this beautiful country you live," Smith said. "If you have our electric service, you will be able to get the same fiberoptic service as the ones in town."

The service area requires eight building areas, including the central office and seven remote locations, which will be referred to as phases. A fiber ring will connect the remote locations to each other, and to the central office.

Two projects are currently underway.

One includes a 17-mile stretch from the BEC office up Business Highway 37 and north to Highway BB.

"At BB Highway, we are going east a mile and up Farm Road 1090 to the Level 3 Communications building," Smith said.

Contractor MP Nexlevel, out of Maple Lake, Minn., was chosen to build the Level 3 project, which began Jan. 4 and is expected to be completed mid-February.

The fiber-to-the-home Phase I project, which includes Cassville, will begin Feb. 1; Trans-Tel out of Norman, Okla., was the winning bidder.

Smith said he hopes to begin signing up customers later this summer.

"We begin construction on the north side of Cassville, and work our way south," Smith said. "After we put up the main cables in a given area, we will schedule customer installations. In Phase I, the central office will be built first, which is located at the BEC office, and about 179 miles of fiber will be installed, along with all the electronics required to provide Internet, video and possibly phone to the cooperative's more than 1,600 members. I am very excited to make Cassville a gigabyte city."

After Cassville is connected, the remainder of the cooperative's member cities are next.

For questions, people may call Smith at 417-847-2131, or contact him by email at

People may also visit or for updates.

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  • You folks seem to be mixing your bits and your bytes. A byte is 8 bits, so that makes quite a difference.

    Quoting your article, "Smith said pricing is not yet available, but the lowest Internet service package will be 250 megabytes per second, and there will be broadband Internet service offered."

    My comment: He probably meant to say 250 megabits/second (Mbps), which is what he says below]:

    "That is 250Mbps up and 250Mbps down, he said."

    Quoting further, "Our highest Internet package will be 1 [gigabyte per second]."

    My comment: Customer bandwidth values are usually expressed in megabits per second, so I'm thinking this quote is in error and he meant to say 1 gigabit per second. I don't think any residential internet service provider is currently offering (or that any household needs or could make use of 8 million million bits per second of bandwidth, which is what 1 gigabyte per second equals.

    As a further comment, Even the heaviest NetFlix-viewing, YouTube-viewing, four-TV household, with all 12 grandkids with cellphones would be hard pressed to use the lowest residential package Smith mentions above, 250 megabits per second (Mbps).

    I am an internet service provider in a rural community in Utah, serving 180 homes and a few small work-at-home businesses, and the total usage for my whole network is less than 200 megabits per second. That number is constantly growing, which keeps me busy, but my customers are generally very pleased with their service.

    Sadly, the public is being conditioned to think that they need hundreds or thousands of times more bandwidth than they will ever need or be able to use. Unscrupulous manufacturers of TV and video-related products, as well as overzealous major providers of bandwidth are hyping numbers that are out of this world. BEC's fiber network can be a huge benefit to the community, but the news needs to be sensible and accurate and the prices need to be kept in line with the actual needs of the public and not be based on pie-in-the-sky promises or catchy misunderstood phrases or unrealistic hype.

    Dan Metcalf

    -- Posted by ko7r on Tue, Feb 2, 2016, at 1:49 PM
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