When it came to internet service in Martinsville, most businesses had considered traditional sources Comcast and CenturyLink their only options.

But as of Jan. 1, 185 of them have found MINet, a city-owned telephone and internet service provider, to be their preferred choice. And soon that service will be available to all residents.

MINet is a fiber-optic system built to serve the city, schools and government offices, but over the years it has expanded to include private businesses and other organizations.

“We are an option to the citizens of Martinsville and Henry County; we’re not competing,” City Director of Telecommunications Mike Scaffidi told City Council on Tuesday night. “We’re always excited about what we’re doing for the community.”

The system carries no debt and saves the city school system an estimated $160,000 a year in telecommunications support.

The projected revenue for this fiscal year is $2.1 million, up from $1.9 million a year ago. Residual funds are to be returned to the city, but budgeted expenses continue to match the anticipated revenue.

“We hired a new plant manager, and we’re growing slightly in personnel,” Scaffidi said. There are seven employees in the telecommunications department.

“We’re not playing catch-up anymore,” he said. “We continue to grow, and we continue to explore new phone and internet innovations.”

In 2016 MINet had 76 customers. That number has grown to 185.

“Three companies are under construction, and we’re working with a variety of companies,” Scaffidi said.

He said there are 14 businesses — five in Martinsville, five in Henry County and four in Patrick County — that are exploring their options with MINet. “Three of them are very big customers.”

A new phone system with a projected 20-year lifespan is now in operation, and MINet has partnered with a similar operation in Harris, Arkansas, to create redundancy in its phone service.

That means that if the Martinsville system were to go down, phone service would be rerouted through Arkansas and vice-versa.

“We’ve been testing it for the past couple of weeks, and it works fine. No problems,” Scaffidi said.

A year ago Scaffidi told council about plans to provide internet and phone service to private residences through a wireless connection. An antenna at Martinsville High School provided a signal to 10 homes.

Once all the technical glitches were ironed out and the service was deemed reliable and stable, Scaffidi said staff expected to expand the residential service at a cost of $50 to $70 a month for each customer.

That experiment turned out to be a success, and Scaffidi says service will soon be open to all residents.

“We think it’s going to explode once we get that wireless into the home,” he said.

According to broadbandnow.com, a website that helps consumers find and compare internet service providers in their area lists CenturyLink as the slowest of the three options available in Martinsville. Using telephone lines to deliver internet, download speeds are in the 5-35 Mbps range. Upload speeds are usually in the 1-10 Mbps range.

Cable download speeds are much improved over telephone lines. Comcast is the cable provider for Martinsville and provides download speeds between 10-500 Mbps and upload speeds 5-50 Mbps. The internet is delivered through the same coaxial cable that may still provide your TV service.

The city uses fiber-optic lines. Fiber internet utilizes optic lines that are made of many small fibers of glass. Data using this method is sent at the speed of light, faster than electronic equipment can process. Fiber internet download speeds are in the range of 250-1,000 Mbps. Fiber is the only service that is “symmetrical,” meaning the upload speeds are the same as the download speeds.

With telephone line or cable, speeds will slow down the further you are away from the service provider. If you have access to fiber the speed is always the same regardless of the distance, according to broadbandnow.com.

Scaffidi points out that MINet is owned by the city and has the potential to be a source of significant revenue. Unlike Comcast or CenturyLink, MINet excels in providing specialized services to its customers.

“We’re here local,” Scaffidi said. “They [customers] know where we live, and they know where we work.”

Dick & Willie Trail busy

City Manager Leon Towarnicki told council the new addition of the Dick & Willie Trail has been packed with visitors.

“It’s a beautiful amenity and used extensively,” Towarnicki said. “This past weekend there were places that were full.

“A lot of people want to access the trail from Country Club Drive.”

The last house on the road is 300 yards from the end of the street, Towarnicki said, and would be a suitable space for additional parking.

“Maybe 8 or 10 cars,” he said. “We’re looking to see if there is a way we can accommodate them at the end of Country Club Drive, and it appears we can do that.”

Also at the meeting, council members:

  • Authorized the City Treasurer to issue refunds of $4,033 and $2,691 to two unnamed businesses that overestimated their gross receipts for the 2017 license year. Because the refund amounts were more than $2,500, that action was required.
  • Received from the Martinsville City Police Department $4,722 from its receipt of state asset forfeitures, and $25,790 was added to the general fund from the city’s surplus sale.
  • Issued a proclamation to recognize members of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Upsilon Delta Zeta chapter, for their contributions to the community. Jan. 16 has been designated a day of recognition for the organization that was founded on Jan. 16, 1920, in Washington D.C. on the campus of Howard University. The sorority has been involved in many programs in the area, such as Adopt a School, scholarships, Girls Rock Awards program and March of Dimes Premature Shoebox Blessings, which includes education surrounding the importance of prenatal care, medical services, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.

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