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Broadband to connect Vidalia

VIDALIA —Vidalia hopes to be a little more connected to its residents soon, thanks to the installation of a fiber optic system throughout the city that would allow instant Internet access to every building within the city’s limits.

City Manager Ken Walker said Vidalia is developing a plan to install the fiber optics into every home and business in the city, and that the plan is nearly complete.

“We realize the importance of being connected to the Internet,” he said. “And the only way to really meet the need to ensure adequate Internet access is through direct fiber optics to each building.”

City Information Technology Administrator Bob Buseck said the Vidalia Broadband Initiative would allow Internet speeds of up to 100 megabytes.

“The average speed in the city right now is between 1.5 to 6 megabytes,” he said.

Walker said the difference in speed will be very easily noticed.

“What used to take two or three seconds to load will now take milliseconds,” he said. “It is basically instantaneous.”

The faster Internet speeds will bring new benefits to area businesses, Walker said.

“If you are a business and you are placing a bid for goods and services, it will be recorded instantly,” he said. “It will give them a competitive advantage and also put them on equal playing field with towns that already have the best Internet access.”

Walker said Vidalia’s part in the installation of the fiber optics will be for utility purposes.

“We will be connecting the utility meters directly to the fibers,” he said. “We are going to upgrade our utility grid to a smart grid.”

Buseck said the new meter system will not only allow faster and easier readings for the city, but it will also provide benefits for each resident.

“There will be meter reading to the home where the owners of the home will be able to pull up their account to see their usage,” he said.

Walker said the city is actively seeking grants to help fund the project while they continue to plan the installation.

Walker also said Vidalia has also joined the Fiber to the Home Council, a trade industry group that supports a city’s effort to install the fiber optic network.

“They do things like marshal resources, identify resources and provide training,” he said. “They are an information source for the city.”

Buseck said the city is currently planning the final stages of the fiber optic layout, and that the importance of a strong Internet connection is always growing.

“Internet and broadband are just as important as water and electricity,” he said. “You can’t conduct your business without it, and right now our Internet is very slow compared to other larger areas, so we are working here to get state of the art equipment.”

The city is looking to work with an unnamed telephone and data company to provide Internet service through the fiber optics, Walker said.

“They will come in and provide the service to people if they want to pay for their services,” he said.

If they don’t use this company, Walker said any Internet service provider in the area a resident signs up with and pays for will be able to provide Internet.

Walker said the city is looking to have the plan completed in the next 60 to 90 days. He also said the city plans to begin installation of the fiber optics in six months.

“The first phase is going to be connecting all the municipal and parish owned buildings,” he said. “After that we are going to begin installing them at the businesses on Carter Street.”

Buseck said the plan is to eventually install a fiber optic ring around the city that will consist of mainline and redundant cables.

“It will be a large fiber network like the ones in Lafayette or Monroe,” he said.

Walker said this is one of Vidalia’s major projects, and the city is doing its best to provide its residents with the best technology there is to offer.