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Case Study: Morrisstown Utility FiberNET

For more than a century, Morristown Utility Systems (MUS) has provided water and electricity to residents of Morristown, TN. In 2002, the state legislated a call for pilot projects to develop broadband communications across the state. MUS was awarded a project and began outside plant construction for its FiberNET FTTH network. By 2006, the first customers began receiving triple-play services, and MUS FiberNET has grown to more than 5100 active customers today. &#;34We have committed ourselves to local service and that's been the cornerstone of our business model," says George Benjamin, operations manager at MUS FiberNET. "With just a handful of telecom employees, we're able to provide very personal service. In fact, my office number is published and customers can call directly to my desk - they don't have to punch a dozen other numbers to reach me. That alone is something the national providers can't and won't offer their customers." The FiberNET system provides up to one gigabit Internet speeds with multiple services available to residential and commercial business customers. MUS continually re-evaluates its Internet, cable and telephone services to meet increased customer demand. The company is also proud of what it has accomplished within the Morristown school system. "Our improvements to local education are a huge feather in our cap," says Greg Fleenor, marketing director at MUS FiberNET. "We helped our schools migrate from comparatively slow service several years ago to a 100-Mbits/sec service and now to a one Gbit/sec service. You cannot imagine the transformation that has made for new education techniques. We've helped them upgrade their level of education through an array of new applications enabled by greater broadband capacity in the classroom." On the competitive front, MUS FiberNET jousts with several much larger players, enjoying success through the company's involvement with the local community. Giving back to the community in terms of technology leadership that furthers education and commerce within Morristown is key to the company's continued growth despite the current economic climate. "We continue to put money back into the local economy versus supporting 'golden parachutes' for giant corporate offices in other states," says Benjamin. "When we measure our success as a company, it's based on how well we're received by the residents and business owners in the city of Morristown." MUS FiberNET joined the FTTH Council to lend credibility and exchange support for its efforts in providing the city of Morristown with a telecom service that is second to none. Being in a state that includes a large number of municipalities that have adopted FTTH platforms, there is also a lot of collaboration among a formal state consortium as well. But the relationships and industry credibility fostered by the FTTH Council are truly unique. "With 28 years in the cable industry before switching over to utilities, I can tell you that the main difference between the two environments is that municipal telecom really is more of a brotherhood environment versus a competitive environment between companies," says Benjamin. "We share a lot of the same technology, so roundtable discussions enable everyone to gain an understanding of what works and what doesn't for their customers." Benjamin also firmly believes that becoming an FTTH company gives MUS FiberNET a head start on the next 100 years of technological development - development that has already assimilated very well into a utility. "Not only has it put us leaps and bounds ahead as a utility," says Fleenor, "but having an FTTH city is a key marketing tool for attracting new business and new residents to the city of Morristown. In fact, we've spoken with people in Atlanta and Los Angeles who cannot get Internet speeds and services as fast as what we offer right here in little old Morristown, Tennessee."