A recent article on a grant received by West Kentucky & Tennessee Telecommunications to install fiber optic cable in the Dukedom area generated varied comments on the Weakley County Press Facebook page.
Tracy Eddlemon of Martin calculated the cost worked out to $8,500 per home for the 406 households to be connected, if they desire.
Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum explained there are two ways to calculate laying fiber optic — cost per household or cost per mile. Of the three projects in progress in Weakley County (Martin, Dresden and Dukedom), the $3.4 million Dukedom project is the least expensive per mile, Bynum said.
According to WK&T officials, the Martin project, at $10.4 million for 4,600 households over 21 miles, and Dresden, at $4.5 million for 1,600 households and 66 miles, are both cheaper per household, but much more expensive per mile. At 77 miles, the Dukedom project comes out to be $44,156 per mile, compared to $68,181 for Dresden and $475,238 for Martin.
Bynum also said WK&T said it is generally cheaper to build rural lines, primarily because there are fewer obstacles to be passed and fewer structures to be accessed.
He also pointed out that regardless of the cost to install the service, all customers are charged the same because of WK&T’s structure as a cooperative.
“Grant money is your tax dollars,” said Keven Rogers of Martin. “Do you want to pay for other people’s Internet? Wait until property taxes are raised.”
Bynum pointed out that the money for the grant was all federal funds, and conceivably could contribute to lower property taxes, or at least less of a property tax increase than would otherwise be needed.
WK&T pays taxes to Weakley County based on its utility assets within the county, so its assessment will increase once the fiber optic is installed. And if the county decides to attempt to extend service to all incorporated areas, taxpayers will save money by not having to pay for areas already being served by grant money.
In a more positive comment, Richard Gallagher of Dresden said he was “so thankful for basic infrastructure upgrades that can help us compete with the rest of the country spurring economic growth in our communities.”
According to tenn4fiber.com, which is a lobbying agency representing public utilities, fiber networks benefit local communities in many ways:
- Job creation: Tennessee’s fiber networks are drawing new companies and accelerating entrepreneurial activity. In Chattanooga, the Gigabit-speed network has contributed to the creation of more than 1,000 jobs. The fiber optic network also provides Tennesseans with the connectivity they need for distance working. More than 10,800 Tennessee companies opt for community fiber where available.
- Increasing broadband access to underserved areas: By deploying community-wide fiber optic networks that include every home and business in the service area regardless of income, Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities are providing world-class broadband in places that have been un-served or underserved by traditional providers including rural areas. This model is so successful it can be expanded to serve more rural areas and communities.
- Education: Fast Internet and video services enhance educational efforts at all levels. This is particularly important for adult learners who are utilizing online learning to retrain for new jobs. As a result, community fiber internet services support Governor Haslam’s “Drive To 55” initiative.
- Increasing local tax revenues: Each of the Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities has significantly increased payments in lieu of taxes and other tax revenues to state and local governments. Together the Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities pay more than $6.5 million to local governments.
For more #localnews see this week’s edition of the Weakley County Press.