Franklin Municipal FiberNET Spurs Economic Development, Serves Government, in Kentucky

Franklin, Kentucky expects to see more positive economic growth when it launches its new fiber optic network. According to an article in the Bowling Green Daily News, the south central community is ready for the upgrade:

“We are super excited about it,” said James McCaslin, associate vice president of academic affairs and director of Franklin-Simpson Center. “It will be like going from 1970 to 2013 with the flip of a switch.”

We contacted Tammie Carey, Fiber Services Manager for Franklin Municipal FiberNET, and she was good enough to answer some questions. She told us that 32 miles of aerial fiber are strung in three loops around the city to ensure redundancy. She expects the network to launch near the end of January for local businesses, though the utility has already been serving one business as detailed below.

The decision was based solely on a desire to boost economic development, a sentiment echoed in the Daily News article:

It’s hard to recruit industry now if you don’t have (fiber optics),” said Dennis Griffin, industrial recruiter for Simpson County. “A lot of industries, particularly in this area, are satellite plants connected to their corporate offices, somewhere else in the United States. They all need to be connected by fiber.

“So if you don’t have that, it’s hard to compete with communities that do,” Griffin said. “Ten years ago, you could get by with T-1 lines – now most industries are just expecting that you have fiber."

Apparently, City officials contacted AT&T and Comcast several years ago and asked them to install fiber to the Franklin industrial parks. When they refused, City Leaders began pondering the possibility of a municipal fiber network. Tammie tells us about the decision in an email:

It was economic based.  Our Industrial Authority was working with several industries regarding possibly locating in our community.  A need they had was large amounts of reliable bandwidth.  The existing companies would not build fiber to the industrial park locations.  The city saw this as a major hindrance with our economic development recruitment and made the decision to invest in a system.

Tractor Supply Company Logo

The decision is paying off even before the formal launch. Tractor Supply Company built a distribution center in Franklin in 2011. Tammie tells us that the retail farm and ranch supplier required a high capacity connection for basic business. Franklin Municipal FiberNET was able to meet the company's needs and is already servicing the facility. Tractor Supply Company brought 336 new jobs to the community. City leaders anticipate reproducing this success story as they offer services to more local businesses.

The City plans to connect all its facilities and departments. The local vocational college will also lease dark fiber from the city. Windstream is providing Internet access via Franklin Municipal FiberNET:

Previously we used internet service supplied by Comcast Cable.  Comcast has a franchise agreement with the city.  As part of the franchise agreement, all the government offices use their internet service for free.  So this is actually an added expense for the city.  However, we feel the reliability and consistency in speed will help employees work more efficiently.

The network is funded with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration that was awarded in 2005. The remaining $1.4 million is funded through municipal bonds.

There are currently no plans to bring fiber to any of the 8,400 residents but city leaders continue to mull over possible Wi-fi in parts of town. For now, Franklin is taking it slow. From the article:

“But no plans have been made,” Carey said. “We want to know how to crawl before we run the marathon. So we want to do one piece and make sure we are doing it well.”