Raindrops pellet the ground; wind rushes through tree limbs; telephone wires tremble. Summer storms are a common occurrence, and so is the power outage that often goes along with it.
With cable internet, a power outage means a loss of lamplight and internet — and no internet means no online weather updates or communication with family through social media or internet-based phone lines.
With fiber-based internet, though, that’s changing.
Phynx Fiber Internet has installed or started to install fiber-optic internet services throughout about one-third of Mexico since it began construction in December 2016, Director of Operations Caleb Pashia said, and the company is not stopping. Sign-ups are “trending up,” Pashia said, and construction is continuing. If kept at the same speed, 100 percent of the town could have fiber internet within 18-24 months.
Already, the new provider’s bandwidth and locality have aided businesses in town. “Speed, speed, speed and reliability, that spells it out,” said Michael Daugherty, MIX Country 96 general manager, when explaining why he installed Phynx internet at the local radio station. “Obviously cost has something to do with that, as well, because they are very cost effective.”
With its underground system of wires, Phynx’s internet service is less likely to be interrupted when a storm hits than wires built above ground. This is especially important to Daugherty, because MIX Country 96, also known as KWWR, shares online weather alerts along with country music.
“We pride ourselves on our storm coverage at KWWR, and one important part of that is the reliability of being able to have the internet so you can have radar coverage,” Daugherty said.
The fiber wires are made of glass instead of copper. Therefore, they are nonconductive, or immune to the surges in electricity commonly seen during storms. The glass also helps protect against lightning-related damages to technology, according to Phynx’s website. The glass material also allows for quick, strong internet access, Pashia said, and provides “enough bandwidth to support the whole town of Mexico through one single fiber.”
“We have a lot more than one fiber going in and around the town,” Pashia added, “but it is far and away a thousand years ahead of the copper services.”
Phynx’s slowest upload and download speed is 100 megabits per second. To put that into perspective, Daugherty said the amount of time it takes to download a song — an action a radio station employee may repeat about 35 times within a span of a few days — is now one to two seconds using Phynx. With Charter Spectrum, the station’s previous internet provider, it took about 15-30 seconds per song.
“When you really need it for a bigger file, that’s when it makes the biggest difference,” Pearl Motor Co. Owner George Huffman said. “Just the overall quickness of getting it done; I’m not a real patient person, so it’s made it really, really fast.”
Like Daugherty, Huffman noticed the positive results of switching from Charter to Phynx at his workplace. He uses the internet to order and locate vehicles, download software updates, place transactions and make phone calls. Huffman said Phynx has been an improvement, even with something as simple as downloading photographs and videos for the business. “It’s probably 10 times faster,” Huffman said.
Huffman also noted the benefits of supporting another local business. He encourages people to support neighboring businesses, he said, and the proximity between Pearl Motor Co. and Phynx is also convenient for him as a consumer, because he receives quick customer service.
“There’s never been any downtime,” he said. “That’s the other thing with Fiber, if someone were to cut a Fiber line, they get on it really fast.”
Phynx’s headquarters is in Auxvasse, and Pashia said he and many of his employees live in Mexico.
“I’ve known (Caleb Pashia) for quite a few years,” Daugherty said. “People here at the station know his dad.”
STILL SOME SAY NO
But even the businesses’ proximity isn’t enough to convince Mexico resident Hazel Roberts to switch from Charter to Phynx.
Phynx won’t build a “Fiberhood,” as the business coins it, unless enough residents in one area sign up for their internet plan. The number of people required to sign up depends on the density of the neighborhood, and the more spread out the houses are, the more people need to sign up. Usually, about 15 percent of people in the neighborhood need to sign up, Pashia said.
“It’s still a business out to make money,” Roberts said.
Roberts’ AARP chapter invited Pashia to come and talk about Phynx’s operation Aug. 20. After learning more, Roberts said she didn’t like that the package for cable TV isn’t completely set up yet, nor that Phynx is part of the larger business, Kingdom Telephone Co.
Roberts also said she wasn’t happy that there was so much construction around her — though at least she learned “why the yards were getting dug up” from Pashia’s talk.
Roberts said the construction was close to home. “Well, my yard has flags in it right now,” she said.
The construction is happening on right of ways, which are patches of public ground beside the road where internet, cable, phone, sewer and water providers can legally install equipment.
There are also six drills operating around Mexico, Pashia said, as they work to continue installing internet services.
Currently, 48 Fiberhoods are complete or currently under construction in Mexico, and Phynx is expanding to Centralia and Moberly now.
Phynx offers four plans without contacts, ranging from $65 per month for 100 megabits per second to $100 per month for 100 gigabits per second for uploads and downloads. Residents can pay an additional $15 per month for fiber-optic phone lines if wanted.
And, though 11 companies in Missouri are receiving about $255 million in federal funding to build broadband networks in underserved areas, Phynx is not one of them.
“It’s not very much money,” Pashia said. “It sounds like a lot of money, but for example just to build in the town of Mexico, it’s basically a $10 million project.”
Pashia said Phynx didn’t even didn’t even apply for the funding.
“In rural areas, it’s more like six houses per mile, so you’re getting a lot lower people based on density, basically a tenth of the people for the same money,” he said. “If you consider how much it costs to build out in these areas, it’s not very much.”