Small-Town Mettle

Traditional telecommunications companies are generally remiss to bring

high-powered networking lines to small towns. But such reticence hardly

matters to the town of Newnan, Ga., 30 miles southwest of Atlanta.

Thanks to Newnan Utilities, a municipal-owned provider of services ranging

from water and sewer to cable television and dial-tone telephone services,

this community of 16,000 people has one of the best rural networks in the

country.

The utility provider got into the broadband networking business not

because of overwhelming customer demand but to improve its own efficiency,

installing a fiber-optic network back in 1993 to streamline its water, sewer

and electric distribution. The investment has paid off.

"It's incredibly profitable for us," said Ellis Cadenhead, assistant

general manager for Newnan Utilities.

And it is profitable for the town as well, which has had several businesses

relocate to this bedroom community in the past few years, thanks in large

part to the existence of the 10 megabits/ sec network.

For Newnan Utilities, stumbling into the data networking arena has changed

its whole business outlook. The provider has begun to extend its network

to the rest of Coweta County, will add voice-over-IP and video streaming

capabilities in the near future, and has expressed interest in building

the regional fiber-optic network being planned by the West Georgia Telecommunications

Alliance in nearby Carrollton.

— Heather Hayes is a free-lance writer based in Stuarts Draft, Va.

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