Custer County offices changing to fiber optics
Fiber optic cable and equipment are being installed at the Custer County Courthouse which should give offices there a much improved communication system.
Kurt Hamburger, current chairman of the county commissioners, said Pioneer Telephone is running service not only to the courthouse but also the sheriff’s office and two of the three county commissioner offices – his at Weatherford and Wade Anders’ south of Arapaho.
“We believe it’s going to be cheaper with increased speed and capability,” said Hamburger. “It will tie together and simplify some of our communications between the courthouse and district offices. If and when we get to the telephone portion, if we decide to do voice over (the internet), it also will do away with copper phone lines.”
But perhaps best of all, he said Pioneer Telephone based out of Kingfisher is installing the service at zero cost to the county. “They’re absorbing all the installation costs,” he said.
Well, not quite all. County Clerk Melissa Parker said the county is paying for supplies, “but it’s minimal, very minimal.” Hamburger also thought the federal government might be providing some financial help as an incentive for companies to extend service to rural areas which don’t have all the services big cities do, in much the same way the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) helped power up farms and crisscross the countryside with electrical lines in the 1930s and ’40s.
For Pioneer which is putting in the fiber optic lines at virtually no cost to clients, Hamburger thought one of the company’s objectives is probably to increase the number of people – that is, paying customers – using its services.
He figured the company assumes that the simple availability of the lines will encourage more people who are now using other forms of communication and other carriers to convert to Pioneer.
Just in the courthouse itself, Hamburger said there are multiple internet providers – Omega, Hudson Technology and AT&T – which creates problems for county employees.
“Presently the billing is an enormous hassle,” he said. “Our goal is to simplify the billing and the service. First we’re getting the courthouse up and going. When we get all that done, we’ll look into the possibility of changing over the phones.”
Ms. Parker said all offices in the courthouse except the court clerk and the judges are expected to make the change when the fiber optic lines and equipment are installed. That’s because those two sections already have it.
Those that will be converting are Parker’s county clerk office, the assessor, treasurer, district attorney, emergency management, and OSU Extension Service.
“It won’t change anything upstairs in the court system,” said Hamburger.
Ms. Parker said the heads of all county departments, most of them elected, had the option of having their offices participate or not. Those that do will have to pay a monthly lease fee.
“It has to come out of each office’s budget,” she said. “The court clerk already has state-issued WIFI, so that’s why that office won’t be involved. There’s already fiber coming in specifically for the court clerk’s office and the judges’ offices.”
Ms. Parker emphasized that while there’s no cost for the installation, individual county officers who want the service are leasing it by the month.
“Installing it is not costing anything, but each office’s internet will pay a monthly lease fee,” she said.
The lack of installation costs was a big factor in her decision to recommend Pioneer to commissioners as the carrier for the courthouse.
“When they offered to write off installation costs, that was big,” she said. “No other company offered to do that.”
Originally talked about by commissioners four years ago, Hamburger said the technology has changed even since then and workers have been at the courthouse the last couple of weeks boring trenches and doing other work outside.
“They’ve also got to do a lot of work in a service closet where all that equipment will go,” he said. “The generator that ran the old jail, we’re doing some work so it can power up and the internet will still be operable. They’re working both inside and out. Outside it’s underground.”
Asked if Pioneer is doing all the work, Hamburger replied, “Them or a contractor. Our people are not working on it.”
At the jail, he said the lines and equipment should improve things like body cameras.
For the two commissioner offices that will get the technology, he said, “The thing we’re having trouble with is having messages sent from our offices in a smooth, quick fashion,” which can be a problem when there’s a bridge out or some other emergency.
For Hamburger’s office, lines won’t have to be laid all the way from Weatherford to Arapaho. Rather, his office is just off State Highway 54 which has a fiber optic line running along it, so his office will be tied into it.
Apparently there’s no fiber optic line yet at Butler where the county’s third commissioner, Lyle Miller, is located, so he’ll have to make do with the old system a while yet.
“In its simplest form, fiber optics is a medium for carrying information from one point to another in the form of light,” states an article on the internet by cable company C2G. “Unlike the copper form of transmission, fiber optics is not electrical in nature. A basic fiber optic system consists of (1) a transmitting device which generates the light signal; (2) an optical fiber cable, which carries the light; and (3) a receiver, which accepts the light signal transmitted. The fiber itself is passive and does not contain any active, generative properties.” That is, no electricity is involved.
Advantages of fiber optics, according to the C2G article, include:
• Many fewer relay points in the lines, since voice-grade copper systems require in-line repeaters every 1.2 miles versus every 62 (that’s sixty-two) miles for fiber optic.
• Larger bandwidth, which means more information can be passed and stored, and the cables can be lighter and longer but smaller in diameter so they can be routed through smaller openings.
• Easier installation and upgrading. Optical cables typically can be installed in spans of 6,000 meters or more, said the C2G article, which means they can be coiled at an intermediate point and later pulled further into the surrounding duct system if needed.
• Non-conductivity. Since they don’t conduct electricity, they should not interfere with such things as radio frequencies and can be placed in areas with utility lines, railroad tracks, etc.
• Security. “Unlike copper-based systems, the dilectric nature of optic cable makes it impossible to remotely detect the signal being transmitted within the cable,” the article says in a concluding paragraph. “The only way to do so is by actually accessing the fiber optic cable itself. However, accessing the fiber requires intervention that is easily detectable by security surveillance. These circumstances make fiber extremely attractive for use in governmental institutions, finance/banking, and other environments with major security concerns.”