VALDOSTA — Southern Fibernet, an Internet service provider, aims to serve under-serviced areas in Lowndes County.
The company was founded by Bryan Sumner and his wife in 2013.
Previously, Bryan Sumner and his brother, Randy Sumner, who oversees the Valdosta and Dublin area, had a construction company that subcontracted work for AT&T and rural phone companies, Randy Sumner said.
The brothers would travel from Georgia to Texas and eventually got tired of traveling for months at a time.
Bryan Sumner and his wife decided instead of building for everyone else they wanted to build for themselves and their family.
In 2015, Southern Fibernet started building fiber-optic Internet cables at Moody Air Force Base because there weren’t any real options in the area, Randy Sumner said.
“When we first came on to Moody, they wanted us to do the dorms,” he said. “When we finished the dorms, there was still places on base that didn’t have the bandwidth — there wasn’t the options.”
Fiber-optic cables are thin flexible fibers with a glass core that light signals can be sent through with little deterioration in the strength of the signal.
A few months into the project, Bryan Sumner’s wife, Angela, suddenly passed away, Randy Sumner said.
“It’s affected all of us,” he said. “This is a family company. It affected our company to the foundation.”
Her passing “stalled” the company briefly, but it moved forward and completed its contract with Moody, he said. Once the project was finished, Moody had more work for the brothers. Leadership on base asked Fibernet to do the businesses and offices on base.
June 2016, the ISP in Lake Park went out of service. So, Moody leadership and some Lowndes County commissioners reached out to Bryan Sumner to see if Southern Fibernet could provide service to the area, Randy Sumner said.
Fibernet was able to buy the old cable plant the previous ISP was using, Randy Sumner said. So, while the houses in the area do not have fiber-optic installed, Southern Fibernet fixed the existing copper lines.
The differences between the traditional copper lines and the fiberoptic lines is how the information travels.
In the traditional copper lines, the information uses the copper as a conduit, making the lines more susceptible to outside conditions such as the weather, Randy Sumner said. The copper lines also inhibit the speed of the information.
Fiber-optics on the other hand use a light to transfer the information.
“Fiber optics is glass,” Randy Sumner said. “It has no copper in it. It is light. It travels at the speed of light. … Copper has a limit.”
Copper lines also need to be split to go to other houses, which cuts the bandwidth each house receives and effectively slows down everyone’s internet that is on the same line, Randy Sumner said.
But a single fiber transfers the information and there is no discernible decrease in speed.
“Essentially, on fiber, if me, you and three other people press enter on a keyboard, we all have our own door to enter,” Randy Sumner said. “On copper, there is a line to determine who goes through the door first.”
The amount of information each can carry is vastly different as well, he said.
“Gigabytes can be transferred over fiber,” he said. “Megabytes is what you carry over copper.”
A gigabyte is about a thousand megabytes, he said. So if you have 10 gigabytes, you have 10,000 megabytes.
One of the big questions about fiber-optics coming to Lowndes County is when will it be available for all of the residents in the county.
Unfortunately, it is costly to put in and takes time to build entire neighborhoods, Randy Sumner said. But Southern Fibernet believes that internet is more than a luxury and plans continued expansion.
“Internet has become a quality of life,” he said. “It’s not just a luxury. We do everything on the internet. It is just a necessity. You have got to have an internet connection.
“What makes Lake Park, Lowndes County and Valdosta different than Atlanta? Population? That doesn’t matter. Everyone should have the same opportunity to have internet.
“Saying that — you can’t snap your fingers and make it appear. It takes time to build.”
So the question becomes how quickly can the company expand its services?
The company plan isn’t to jump from area to area and build out existing areas, Sumner said. It is planning to build out from where the company currently operates and move its way through the county gradually.
“If you are going to build something out, you don’t skip and go to Statenville,” he said.
So, the company is currently aiming to fill in the gaps and be the ISP for residents who currently have no options for high-speed internet, he said.
“I’d rather go out to an area that has no options,” Sumner said. “Those are the people that I want to go to. I don’t want to go add an option, I want to go to the folks that don’t have an option, then we’ll go to the people who have options.”
Southern Fibernet also offers SFNTV, a television service that is available on android phones and Roku streaming devices.
The app has local shows and “pretty much all of your expanded basic,” Sumner said. All the channels are high definition. The company is working on adding premium channels such as STARZ and Encore. It is also looking to add HBO later on.
The television is live television unlike streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, Randy said. If there’s a delay, it is no different than if it was through a satellite company.
Southern Fibernet is located 4373 Inner Perimeter Road. For more information, call (229) 32-8375, visit www.southernfibernet.com or find Southern Fibernet Lowndes County on Facebook.
Jason Smith is a reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be contacted at 229-244-3400 ext.1256.