Laurinburg ahead of the fiber optic game

Charles D. Nichols III Target Laurinburg

May 14, 2014

What do the cities of Laurinburg and Austin, Texas have in common? We are ahead of the fiber optic game, and the envy of our larger neighbors. Most everyone has seen recent articles about Charlotte and the Triangle area exploring fiber infrastructure and internet speed options. Both areas have the desire and need to offer a gigabit of internet service. They are hoping to gain these capabilities from companies such as Google and AT&T. The city of Laurinburg offers these services to businesses and industries today. Currently, Austin, Texas is the only other area in the United States that offers one gigabit of internet speed.

“Broadband” refers to high-speed internet service that is always on. The city of Laurinburg’s broadband service is delivered via optical fiber. The use of optical fiber enables faster internet speeds than other forms of communication, such as copper wire, that drastically reduce bandwidth.

The city of Laurinburg first started its fiber optics system in the early 1990’s, with the purpose to serve the city’s facilities only. In 2006, the city expanded its fiber infrastructure by adding a fiber loop to connect and serve all the county schools. Currently, the city has 58.8 miles of fiber optic cable in place which covers 50 percent of Scotland County. Laurinburg just completed a 96-fiber backbone upgrade to give the city system a “1 Gig City” capability rating.

In 2011, a North Carolina law placed new limits on city-owned communications service providers with intent to prevent municipalities from building and offering broadband services. Fortunately, the city of Laurinburg and six other municipalities in North Carolina were grandfathered from this law since theses municipalities were already providing fiber and internet services to the community.

Laurinburg has contracted an IRU (Indefeasible Right of Use) for four fibers with Broadplex, LLC in a 12-count fiber buffer dedciated to the city through MCNC network. Broadplex is the city’s first provider that allows internet connectivity to city customers. Our service offers choice of connectivity to the outside world through transport in Broadplex’s network to data centers. In addition to offering high speed internet service, dark fiber lease with IT services is also available.

Several businesses and industries have contacted the city for internet services and leasing of fibers for their facilities. Most of these require very little construction of new facilities.

The city is currently in a position to provide:

— Internet and Dark Fiber services to all industrial and business clients in Scotland County in a short time frame.

— 1 Gbps (gigabit of data per second) for upload and download.

— Interconnect with other Fiber Optic systems in adjacent counties.

— Smart Grid, meter reading, customer interface and data transfer, and new technologies that can be implemented with the use of the City’s fiber system to provide services to the City’s water and electric customers.

— New services to students and schools through faster network speeds and size.

— New internet provider services from all over the world to the businesses of Scotland County.

A strong broadband presence is an attractive asset and marketing tool that companies look for when considering locations to grow their business. Broadband service has become as important as electricity and roads. In addition to providing better services to existing industries and businesses, it is our hope that our fiber infrastructure and high speed internet capabilities will be a driving force to generate economic growth and job creation in the area. Access to these services isn’t available everywhere — they are unique to Scotland County — and our capacity can provide new opportunities to industries and businesses as they Target Laurinburg/Scotland County.

Charles D. Nichols III is Laurinburg’s city manager.