Fiber project to push city into 'big data' future


JASPER — On the outskirts of Jasper rests a rather unremarkable-looking box with the potential to blast the city into the future.

As part of Smithville Fiber’s $15 million fiber optic internet build across the county seat, the company has installed a 100-gigabit core network node in its Jasper communications facility. That node is a powerful piece of technology typically reserved for large, urban markets, and Smithville representatives believe the blazing fast internet speeds it provides could be a driving force in attracting big data-related industry to the area.

“From a technology perspective there simply isn’t a company or industry sector that can eliminate Dubois County from consideration based on data connectivity requirements,” Jason Dauby, Smithville’s chief technology officer, said in a press release.

Fiber internet differs from traditional cable and satellite internet in the amount of information that can be transmitted across long distances quickly. Backed by local government support, Smithville’s project began in November 2014 and is slated to wrap up next year.

“Once we finish, the city of Jasper is actually going to be the only full community in the state of Indiana that has gigabit fiber available, within what in our industry we call, a drop away,” Melissa Wright, the Jasper project manager, explained in a phone interview.

That means the entirety of the city — every single home and business from city limit to city limit — will soon have access to fiber wire connections that produce speeds at least 10 times faster than the national average. The technology is so advanced that while new devices can handle that gigabit strength, those manufactured as recently 2016 can’t even tap into the full potential.

Wright explained that the company had an established footprint in Jasper and had installed fiber at businesses prior to the project launch. Combined with the progressive direction of the city and economic growth it fosters, Smithville determined Jasper would be an attractive place to launch a wide-scale endeavor.

Dauby wrote in an email that the service his company is bringing to the area can further push that growth.

Companies that deal with big data are attracted to markets that can provide high data capacity and connection diversity, Dauby said.

“Smithville’s core node provides data capacity commensurate with much larger urban markets,” he said, “and as part of Smithville’s core network, data flow to and from the Jasper market is more reliable because it can traverse multiple paths.”

The idea of attracting a new industry to the area has made local headlines recently. At Wednesday night’s Jasper Common Council meeting, representatives from Thomas P. Miller & Associates shared the dangers of communities with a monolithic industry spread. Currently, 38.4% of Dubois County’s 31,000 jobs are in the manufacturing field, and the county ranks among the bottom 20% in the nation in industry diversity.

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