By STEVEN NALLEY
Starkville Electric Department General Manager Terry Kemp confirmed Wednesday that SED has finished installing the first phase of its fiber optic cable infrastructure upgrade, setting the stage for public wireless Internet access and other new amenities in Starkville.
Kemp said this first phase, completed last week, ties together all SED substations and increases the system’s reliability. The second phase will encircle the entire city, traveling south through MSU before returning to SED’s primary substation, he said.
“It winds up being around 12 miles of fiber,” Kemp said. “(The first phase) provides a little better information, but it also creates a platform that we can tie other equipment to ... that will allow us to provide the quality of service that our customers need.”
One example, Kemp said, is wireless Internet access in certain areas of the city. SED will not be using all of the fibers in the fiber optic cable network, he said, so the city can use the spare fibers for Wi-Fi. He said Starkville Information Technology Manager Joel Clements is already buying Wi-Fi equipment to hook up to these spare fibers.
“That will be coming up in the next couple of weeks, in the very near future,” Kemp said. “That’s an example of collaborating and working together.”
Specifically, Clements said the city will begin installing the Wi-Fi equipment early in the new year, and he expects installation to finish by the end of February. The timetable will partially depend on weather, he said, because city workers will install the wireless access points on utility poles using bucket trucks.
“The first phase of (Wi-Fi) is going to be downtown,” Clements said. “It’s going to be accessible from around the county courthouse (to) the public library. It will be a corridor down Main Street. You may or may not be able to see a signal one street over, at least in this first phase.”
As the fiber optic cable installation continues, Clements said he hopes to install Wi-Fi access points in more places, including the University Drive area. The city will assess which areas would benefit most from these access points to determine their locations, he said.
“Probably late in the new year, we’ll start at the Sportsplex area over on Lynn Lane,” Clements said. “Also, McKee Park, over near the Sportsplex, is an area we’ll focus on in phase two.”
Kemp said the fiber optic network will also facilitate SED’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure system, which it will use to monitor consumer utility usage. Consumers will also be able to check their own usage in real time, he said, and the new service will cost them nothing.
“(The fiber optics and AMI are) really two systems ... and they work together (in the) long term,” Kemp said. “The meter reading will be starting sometime next year. From a customer standpoint, they won’t really see anything different than they have right now, although from an access standpoint, they will have much more data available.”