Owensboro Municipal Utilities is preparing to expand its fiber internet, or fibernet, service into another area of the city.

It will be the third residential fibernet expansion of what OMU calls "segments," or large swaths of the city as it builds farther out. When complete in 2023, there will be a total of eight segments.

The new segment, which will extend the service to 3,800 potential customers, will run east from South Griffith Avenue, with Griffith Avenue and East 20th Street as its northern borders and College Drive and West Byers Avenue as its southern borders, to Breckenridge Street.

Chris Poynter, OMU's telecommunications superintendent, said the construction bids for the new segment will be opened on Thursday for the project that's expected to begin in early January.

In 2019, OMU spent nearly $3.8 million advancing its residential fibernet system. It's budgeted another $3.6 million for 2020.

Poynter said there are multiple variables, such as the existing utility pole infrastructure, that affect cost.

"One of the things that have to be determined is how much is aerial and how much is underground," Poynter said. "Underground takes time to bore and trench. It's also subject to the weather conditions. If it's in the middle of winter and the ground is frozen solid, it's very difficult to deal with."

For OMU's upcoming third segment, it's scheduled to be done by May 2020.

OMU opened its second segment this year, which has 3,250 potential customers. That coverage area runs from U.S. 60 as its western border to South Griffith as its eastern border. Its northern border runs from West Parrish Avenue to Scherm Road.

Since 2016, when it began its Fiber to the Home program, OMU has connected nearly 900 residential fibernet subscribers and has a waiting list that extends into mid-December.

According to Sonya Dixon, OMU spokeswoman, the residential fibernet revenue is projected to exceed $2.2 million in 2020 with a net income of $69,000.

"At this point, I don't want to say (the internet) is as essential as electric and water, but if my internet is out, I'm just about as upset," Dixon said. "But it's quickly getting there because it's how we do everything. It's how we order our groceries; it's how we check our lab results from our doctors' offices; it's how we're watching TV; it's how we're communicating with our family across the country."

OMU offers monthly rates of $49.99 for 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps for $69.99 per month and 1 Gbps for $99. All three have a $49.99 installation fee.

OMU's fibernet speeds are synchronous, meaning the upload and download speeds are the same.

Poynter said 80% of OMU's customers subscribe to the 50 Mbps package.

"That's all you really need unless you're a gamer and you want the fastest possible everything; those are the gig customers who comprise less than 10% of our total customers," Poynter said.

Although OMU has yet to start the third segment, it is accepting pre-subscribers who can register on its website -- omu.org. OMU also offers a coverage map on its website for residents to check fibernet's availability in their area.

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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