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.”
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 power, telecom, 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 microcables, 1×32 MPO splitters, AllWave® FLEX jumpers, cordage 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.
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.
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.