FIBER POWERS GOVERNMENT & COMMUNITY SERVICES
CASE STUDY: CUNNINGHAM FIRE DEPARTMENT
When most people do their cyber shopping, they’re hunting for deals on books, music or vintage collectibles.
But when the Cunningham Fire Department went perusing through online stores they were looking for something a little bigger — a $159,000 water tanker truck. “That was the biggest thing I’d ever shopped for,” says Fire Chief Dan Bowles.
Once they found a company to build the truck, they were even able to keep up with the fabrication work by watching the progress through the builder’s webcam.
That kind of resourcefulness and innovative thinking, coupled with access to top-of-the-line broadband service from WK&T, have helped the Cunningham crew become one of Western Kentucky’s best-equipped volunteer fire departments.
One of the ways the department has grown is through federal and state grants. Administrators in the department say they use WK&T’s broadband to research and apply for the funding. When they receive grants, they use their high-speed connection to post the data and reports required by the granting agencies.
On a more routine basis, firefighters use broadband to do everything from filing fire reports and photos of damage to monitoring dangerous weather situations. A high-speed connection also allows them to share their reports and fire records with other agencies.
Broadband is a major asset to the department when it comes time for training, as well. Each firefighter must complete 20 hours of documented training each year. Initially, Bowles only used WK&T’s broadband to submit his crew’s training reports, but now the department participates in online classes and watches training videos. “You can have a trainer in Frankfort, Kentucky, that’s teaching a training class here,” says firefighter Larry Fraser.
The ability to attend training online saves the department time and money. A firefighter no longer has to travel for training, pay to stay in a hotel or take off work several days for their volunteer services. “Broadband provides us with so many possibilities,” says Bowles.
Cunningham Fire Department is a well-equipped, highly trained volunteer department, thanks in part to how it uses its broadband Internet connection.
CASE STUDY: COUNTY GOVERNMENT OFFICES
Marshall County (KY) government officials remember a time when it was necessary to type or handwrite a letter, lick a stamp and wait on the postman to contact their local and national representatives.
Now they only have to wait for their computer to launch. Broadband Internet is putting them in contact with their officials with the speed of an email. As little as 20 years ago, sending and receiving documents could take weeks or more, but fiber is changing the way government works with a few clicks of the mouse. And it’s giving local citizens the ability to be better informed.
Local leaders say that broadband not only allows their offices and agencies to work more efficiently, but it gives residents quicker access to government information than ever before. Agencies now share tax data, meeting agendas, meeting minutes, parcel maps and more online.
In Graves County, the property valuation office makes parcel maps, tax information and other data available online so residents can access it from home on WK&T’s network. “Most of our information is online presently,” explains Howel Carr, property valuation administrator. “It’s a good way to reach out to people. Realtors use it. Appraisers use it. I even know of property owners who use it on a regular basis.”
Beyond the speed of digital information, Carr says it’s cheaper for his department to provide information digitally than with hard copies. “It saves us money for sure,” he says.
Calloway County Judge/Executive Larry Elkins says times have changed from the days when residents and county staff had to dig through stacks of forms, maps or binders. When Elkins wants to get information to local residents, he has several options. One option Elkins has started to use more frequently is posting information on Facebook. “I really enjoy it now that I’ve learned,” he says of the social media tool.
Calloway and other counties are developing ways to notify residents of important information through social media, email and mobile alerts. But for that to work, residents must be connected to a reliable network such as WK&T’s. “It’s essential now to what we do,” he says.
Local leaders say broadband is not going away, and its importance will only increase in the future. “The sky’s the limit,” says Elkins. “With new technology emerging every day, I won’t be surprised by anything.”
Broadband brings government closer to the people by making services more accessible.