Fiber Optic Reliability and Flexibility The “Currency” to Support Industry and Homeowners — and Even Save Lives

NineStar Connect is unlike any rural co-op in America. The company offers Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and Business (FTTB), electricity, water and sewer services. Their new vision began back in 2011 when Hancock Telecom and Central Indiana Power merged to create an infrastructure powerhouse, driving economic development and growth.

“Step one was to deliver higher-quality, smart services for combined power and telecom customers,” comments Michael Burrow, president and CEO of NineStar Connect. “Deciding to add wet services more recently, we already had the fiber optic systems in place to make water and sewer intelligent, as well.”

Burrow considers the fiber optic network reliability and unlimited bandwidth to be valued “currency” supporting all services.

Since 2011, NineStar Connect has employed OFS fiber optic cable and optical connectivity products exclusively, installing more than 1,500 miles of fiber optic cable, and investing $54 million in infrastructure. The “Smart” in their Smart Grid network depends on high speed and reliability from OFS for optical communications for powertelecom, sewer and water services, and even to an entrepreneurial campus and adjacent high-tech cornfield.

According to George Plisinksi, Manager of NineStar Connect Telecom Operations, “The co-op continues to invest in its fiber optic backbone, as communities demand a local, responsive alternative to national competitors. According to a recent study of the region, the availability of fiber optics to power high-speed broadband connectivity is a key consideration for economic development.”

Adds Plisinksi, “Originally OFS only provided fiber optic cable to NineStar. Now, our strategic partnership broadens their role to include participation in our business strategy. In terms of optical products, this includes microcables1×32 MPO splittersAllWave® FLEX jumperscordage and FITEL® splicers.”

“NineStar Connect expects OFS to anticipate growth and support innovation. This is truly a partnership, where we face real life issues. NineStar and OFS solve problems together,” comments Alex Chew, OFS Sales Manager for the Central U.S.

REVERSING DECLINE

Burrow believes that decline in rural areas revolves around young people going off to college and coming back to a primitive rural infrastructure. “Today quality of life requires more than electricity. We have discovered we can raise the quality of all utility services through communications excellence. Otherwise, forget about growth,” he says.


George Plisinski, Manager of Telecom Operations at NineStar Connect (left) and Jill Snyder, Director of Business and Economic Development at NinesStar Connect. NineStar Connect will soon provide a 30,000 sq. ft. co-working facility for start-ups (behind them), and also a high-tech agricultural field of 17 acres, where fiber optics will support high yield crops, and innovative ideas for agriculture.


SEWER & WATER INTELLIGENCE

NineStar Connect’s recent purchase of wet utilities, marrying them into the existing fiber optic network, was strategic and tactical. Now, automated water meter readings and monitoring for leaks are the norm. According to Burrow, the co-op simply tied in the fiber network already in place to monitor electric and communications services. This change helped to reduce overhead for members of the co-op, allowing more capital for other innovations. Burrows says with confidence, “Dependable public water and sewer service improves property values and the quality of life. It also helps government and developers to better manage growth and make the community more attractive for businesses that want to bring good-paying jobs to the county.”

NineStar Connect has a strong commitment to new services provided by their customers—and for their customers–as noted in the examples that follow.

NEW MODEL FOR HEALTH CARE

“Compared with an old-fashioned X-ray, an MRI scan consists of thousands of slices of data, which is transmitted rapidly and precisely over our fiber optic network,” comments Steve Long, President and CEO of Hancock Health and Hancock Regional Hospital. “In the past it would have been unthinkable to almost instantaneously send MRI or CAT scans to other hospitals, physicians and specialists.”

Long stated, “Our hospital is in a transformative moment, moving services and quality care outside of the hospital. With our partner NineStar Connect, we have made the capital commitment to build the broadband network in the hospital, connecting us with our community and, in fact, the whole world.”

Continues Long, “NineStar Connect plays a critical role in delivering optimal care to all of our patients. The fiber optic network is an invaluable building block for a very different future.”

In the hospital itself, two redundant server rooms allow massive data files and videos to be sent throughout the hospital and to outside specialists and partners. These rooms are considered to be the nerve center of the hospital. This capability enables telemedicine via NineStar Connect’s vast East-Central Indiana fiber optic network and is monitored 24/7.



BROADBAND DATA IRRIGATION

“Our soon-to-be-launched Idea Co-op brings the power of bright minds and fiber optics together in a start-up co-working style campus. We are moving our non-IT related people to a new facility to make room!” says Jill Snyder, Director of Business and Economic Development at NineStar Connect.

“The cornfield beside us will become a lab for new agriculture technologies including subsurface-to- stratosphere connectivity ideas that would “irrigate” with fiber optics and sensors to monitor nutrients and changes in moisture. Drones and self-driving vehicles have already set the stage for advanced farming,” she continues. Snyder notes that fiber to the farm is critical for the next generation. While big data, including aerials of entire acreages, will help to minimize spraying, sensors in the ground connected to fiber optics will direct attention to plants needing nutrients. Less fertilizer means less runoff into the creeks and less pollution. “Fiber optics are vital to increasing yield,” Snyder states.

FUTURISTIC RURAL VS. OUTDATED

Rural homeowners have Internet speeds equal to or faster than residents in major cities. Movies and videos function without interruption. Communications connectivity for homes continues to skyrocket in usage, including video for phone conferences, data and streaming entertainment. With OFS fiber optics, provided by NineStar Connect, the future is already in place. Computers and software created five to 10 years from now will already have the infrastructure in place to support additional bandwidth demand.

Notes Plisinki, “Sometimes simple, practical innovations are essential to high-level technology delivery. AllWave FLEX Zero Water Peak (ZWP) Bend-Insensitive Fiber from OFS is one good example, as it ensures premium performance, even when exposed to water and subjected to bends.”

In fact, attenuation or loss of the optical signal in a standard single-mode fiber simply doesn’t happen. Seamless splicing with FITEL fusion splicers can be done everywhere from long haul to shorter reach in-building applications.

POWER SAFETY FIRST

Safety is boosted dramatically for linemen working in NineStar Connect’s power utility side of the business. Their fiber optic network allows for centralized control and fault isolation in the event of an outage, and also permits linemen to report directly to the outage location to begin restoration work. At the same time, fiber-optic-fed electric distribution equipment is rapidly switched from afar to restore power to the maximum number of homes and businesses possible.

“Fiber is the way to go. Line crews don’t want to rely on wireless frequency. Direct connection is safer and more efficient,” says Jamie Bell, NineStar Connect Director of Engineering.

Bell continues, “Our SCADA system, integrated with our fiber optic network, is self healing. Outages are minimized and we are able to narrow down issues so quickly that our customers rarely encounter inconveniences.”

OFS Fiber Optic Cable at NineStar Connect

Various types of OFS fiber are used for single-mode applications in Outside Plant (OSP) as well as Indoor (Premises, Enterprise) applications. High bandwidth OM3, OM4 and OM5 graded-index multimode optical fibers are designed to support a wide range of short-reach, VCSEL-based LAN, Central Office and Data Center applications.

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