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New communications project puts Lismore on technological cutting edge

A new building behind the Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co. offices in downtown Lismore is the point to which new fiber in the community's $2.3 million fiber-to-the-home project is connected. (RYAN MCGAUGHEY/DAILY GLOBE)

LISMORE -- Since 1907, Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co. has strived to provide the best communications technology possible despite its rural location.

One-hundred-three years later, that mission is being followed more than ever, as the co-op's customers are now getting the fastest Internet service available -- and a whole lot more.

"In 2009, we began installing fiber to the home, with completion by summer 2010," said Bill Loonan, the co-op's general manager. "We have about half our subscribers done now. ... We have roughly 320 subscribers."

Mark Loosbrock, secretary and treasurer of the co-op's board, explained the fiber-to-the-home project has been funded through a 30-year, $2.3 million Rural Utility Service federal loan. The project was available for full funding, he added.

"We had copper lines out there and some of our customers were complaining about noise and how they couldn't hear other people," Loonan said. "What fiber provides us is via DSL or high-speed Internet, it cleared up our noisy, static, old lines. It also enables us to provide more services, like conferencing and things like that.

"We also offer high-speed Internet, which nowadays is the way to go," Loonan continued. "It gives our customers everything from sending and receiving emails to watching TV on your computer. We've got download speeds now up to 20 meg, with the capability of up to 100 meg."

The co-op has fed the fiber to not just customers within Lismore's city limits, but outside of town, too. Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co. serves customers in a 100-square mile radius.

"We think this is going to be the norm down the road," Loonan said. "That's why we wanted to provide this to our customers as soon as we could."

All the fiber within the new system is buried, Loosbrock stated. Loosbrock Construction, a local contractor, was awarded the bid to perform the services through a combination of plowing and boring, connecting the line to a new building constructed to the rear of the co-op offices in downtown Lismore.

"Every individual got their own fiber; we're not going through splitters or anything like that," Loonan added.

As the fiber project nears its conclusion -- with all the co-op customers getting the ultra-modern connection -- Loonan, Loosbrock and others affiliated with Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co. are not only looking at the present, but beyond as well.

"The primary purpose of this is to provide clear phone service to our patrons," Loosbrock said. "Second, it's to provide our own long-distance service to our patrons, and third, it's to provide high-speed Internet. It's also positioning us for the future, and for video that could be coming down the road. With the new infrastructure there, it allows us for unlimited technology in the future."

The co-op's new technology is the same that's prevalent in large cities around the globe, Loosbrock said.

"From an individual as well as a business standpoint, it's unlimited what you can do with this technology in terms of communication with the world," he added.

Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co. also offers Verizon cellular phone service, Direct TV, and Wildblue and Clearwave wireless Internet service. Each of those offerings is part of the co-op's mission to be a premium provider of communications services -- despite its population of 238 (2000 census).

"This is not an unusual step for Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co.," Loosbrock said. "We had private lines in their phone service long before many of the regional providers did. This is just a natural step in what we've always done. We've been a leader in communications forever."

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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