​Ben Lomand to Extend Fiber Optic Connection


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Telecommunication provider Ben Lomand Connect recently received a $1.8 million Rural Development grant to extend fiber optic broadband service to 265 households in the areas of Jump Off and Sherwood Roads.
“The Communication Oriented Connectivity Broadband Grant application didn’t specify fiber optic infrastructure, but fiber was our medium of choice as the most future-proved option,” explained General Manager and CEO Lisa Cope.
The fiber connection will extend to the premises of households within the grant area offering internet, phone and video service. Those who connect to Ben Lomand can retain their current phone number. Email addresses will need to be unique to Ben Lomand Connect, but most customers will be able to retain the part of their current email address occurring before the “@” sign.
While cable and DSL broadband transmission is already available in the grant service area, the faster fiber optic connection is expected to yield significant economic, educational, health and public safety opportunities.
“A criterion of the grant was that the current maximum attainable speed in the area could not exceed 10 Mbps (megabits per second) for download and 1 Mbps for upload,” Cope said. Fiber is approximately 3 Mbps faster than cable internet service and approximately twice as fast as the fastest DSL service.
A technology and community center planned for the new service area will offer access to computer terminals, printers and WiFi free of charge for the first two years of operation. Cope anticipates users from outside the grant service area will want to avail themselves of the advanced fiber technology.
The comprehensive fiber connection will extend to many of the artery roads in the new service area. (See map above.) Customers along the route of the extension will be able to get service when construction is completed at their location without waiting for the entire project to be finished.
Engineering and construction will begin as soon as all the USDA documentation is finalized. “Documentation can take a few months,” Cope said.
Ben Lomand Connect will have three years to complete the project. The grant will be matched with a $320,021 contribution from Ben Lomand. The telecommunications provider has also applied for a Broadband Accessibility Grant in Franklin County and overlapping into Marion County in the Snake Pond Road area. Cope urged area residents to offer input during the upcoming public comment period.
“Community support is vital,” Cope said. “We couldn’t receive these grant awards otherwise.” Details on when to comment and how will appear in the Messenger. Cope thanked those who participated in the public comment process for the recently received grant.
Ben Lomand Connect got its start in 1952 providing telephone service to rural middle Tennessee. Today, Ben Lomand has 20,000 internet customers with 10,000 connected by fiber. In November of 2017, Ben Lomand Connect fiber optics became the University’s backup vendor, in the process doubling the institution’s available bandwidth.