Jessica Jensen | Managing Editor
Households and businesses depend on technology in ways never heard of 40 or 50 years ago when the first copper telecommunications cable was first placed in the ground.
“It was never thought for copper cable to do anything but communicate a voice conversation from point A to point B,” said Doug Boone, CEO of Premier Communications. “Data, internet, broadband — none of those terms existed in the context of the way we look at things today.”
Premier Communications, a telecommunications company based in Sioux Center with a local office in Rock Rapids, is finishing up a multimillion-dollar project to connect rural residents of Rock Rapids and Doon to a new fiber optic network. The company started the project more than a year ago laying out the network in Rock Rapids and Doon. Construction started in Rock Rapids this spring and in Doon this summer. Technicians are now working on switching customers in Rock Rapids to the new network while construction continues in Doon.
“The first fiber connection is always exciting,” said Brandon Jurrens, one of the Premier technicians performing the customer cutovers to the new network. “It’s so important that the customer has a good experience when we move them to fiber optics and there are so many residents in this area that have been waiting for years to have internet speeds and communications services that will allow them to connect in ways they never could before.”
Before this new network, which transmits light over glass, copper cable supplied internet and wireless connections to homes. “The physics behind copper distribution of broadband doesn’t allow for what it needs to do,” explained Boone. “But with cable that old, moisture, water have a terrible effect on it and after a while you can do what you can to fix it but it’s never going to really FIX it. With fiber optics, you don’t have the corrosion affects you have with copper so we believe fiber optics offers a far more future-proofed network for decades.”
Premier Communications has been around 112 years, according to Boone and the company prides itself on customer service. “Premier takes great pride in the fact that we offer exceptional services, service to customers. We try to be state-of-the-art as our tag line says — Looking Ahead. We take that seriously,” said Boone. “That means looking ahead from a technology perspective, an innovation perspective an offering our customers the ability to do what they need to do to be successful.”
Offering fiber optics to customers helps fulfill that mission, according to Boone. It’s something the Jans family of rural Rock Rapids appreciates. With two autistic children that require advanced medical care, sometimes from specialty providers, connection to medical providers and resources is critical. Amy Jans has already noticed an improvement in her internet connection. “Our biggest issue was obtaining internet that could handle multiple tasks,” she explained. “With fiber, we don’t have to prioritize what is being done first. We can now work quickly and efficiently.” In terms of the installation process, Jans added, “The installation process for us went quite smoothly. We were able to have our questions answered and the technicians took the time to show us how the equipment worked.”
The fiber cutover process consists of placing a fiber box in residents’ utility rooms that connects the home service to the fiber running underneath their yard and connected to the main lines of fiber running under the street and connecting back to Premier’s central office equipment locations which routes more than 2,500 miles of fiber around northwest Iowa. “When people think of fiber optics, usually they only experience the box in their basement or the construction process in their yard,” said Les Sybesma, construction and maintenance manager at Premier. “What really makes communications services extraordinary is what goes on behind the scenes, throughout Premier’s network. Thousands of miles of fiber snake through northwest Iowa connecting residents to the world through Des Moines, Sioux Falls and Sioux City. Residents see it from the perspective of surfing the internet or talking on their phone, but we see it as a maze of high-density communications and routes that circle back to ensure users have the best experience even if the network is busy.”
That maze of high-density communication infrastructure allows customers to connect in ways they never could before. “With all the devices that are connected to a Wi-Fi network in a home today — it used to be there would be on computer, one internet connection — you have all the smart phones, the tablets, computers, smart TVs. We’re going into the future with even more Wi-Fi-enabled things like home monitoring and security systems. Going forward you’re going to have multiple streaming services at the same time. There will be things with tele-health. Obviously, education gets expanded because everything’s at your fingertips,” Boone explained. “I think the possibilities are limitless. We can’t imagine what the future holds with the amount of online, high-quality, high-definition video streaming available and that it isn’t just about entertainment. It’s about families staying connected and more.”
With the project nearly complete, Premier Communications staff is working to answer questions, switch customers to the new network and find the best service package for the customers. “Engaging customers is always important — helping them understand what’s available to them, find the package that’s best for them and their individual needs. One of the things when you talk to people you’re able to find out what is their lifestyle demand in terms of a broadband connection,” explained Boone. “It not just about price, speed. It’s about what’s going to serve the needs of their household.”
As the heavy equipment and the marking flags begin to disappear, residents often forget what runs underground, but the high-tech fiber optic network that now exists gives residents the freedom to surf, stream, shop. With technology changing at a rapid pace, this high-end network is more than capable of handling the technology needs of the future.
(Jennifer Dorhout, residential sales and marketing coordinator, Premier Communications, contributed to this article.)
Rural residents connected like never before
Jessica Jensen | Managing Editor