OSAGE — Within just a few months, Osage Municipal Utility will be one step closing to providing fiber-optic Internet to its customers.
The first phase of the project involves bringing a fiber-optic trunk line to the city of Osage through the purchase of its own fiber-optic trunk line from a Minnesota company, yet to be disclosed by the utility or its general manager, Josh Byrnes.
Byrnes hopes to see the project completed in the spring of 2017.
“By owning our own trunk line, we are able to reduce the cost of purchasing bandwidth,” he said, “and to also begin planning for fiber-to-the-home projects.
“It will also allow us another tool in the economic tool box.”
During a recent discussion with the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors, Byrnes stated that once the trunk line entered the north edge of Mitchell County, it would follow a 22-mile path, beginning at State Line Road, continuing in the right-of-way of Highway 218 to 440th Street and then on to Hickory Avenue and back to Highway 218.
However, in order to bring the line to Osage, the utility had to hire R & S Fiber Optic Services, LLC to complete the project design and layout.
Byrnes added while the trunk line would be going through the city of St. Ansgar, “OMU is not looking to expand services in St. Ansgar or any other part of the county being serviced by OmniTel Communications.”
Several years ago, Omnitel brought fiber-optic services to most of Mitchell County, except for the city of Mitchell, through which this trunk line would pass, as well as along Red Ball Road, giving the utility the option to provide the service to those specific areas.
Byrnes said he had previously contacted OmniTel regarding the company’s future plans of providing the service, which Byrnes said they had no interest in doing.
Although OMU is not necessarily expanding services to others in Mitchell County, Byrnes said, “there are opportunities for others to purchase bandwidth from our trunk line and expand those opportunities.
“We are really focused on our public purpose of supplying service to our existing customers.”
In regards to the overall cost and savings of the project to an OMU customer, Byrnes said, “This is really a wild card at this point in time. It is hard to nail down any sort of long-term savings, as this is simply phase one of a multiple-phase project.
“We are simply getting connectivity to Osage and build out from there. There are going to definitely be opportunities for savings to our rate payers long term. Even more important is the dependability of services moving forward. It’s hard to put a price on that.”
In speaking with the supervisors, Byrnes said with the increase in bandwidth and connectivity, “Osage could be the gateway for connectivity to other parts of the state.
“We could have the most connected city and county in the state of Iowa.”
Byrnes said between Osage and OmniTel Communications, “We would be providing them a redundancy in fiber optic connectivity.
“This is bigger than just bringing fiber to Osage. This is about making Osage global. This is about recruiting our alumni to come back home and work globally from Osage. This about economic development for the community of Osage.”