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Bringing Comfort, Connection In The Worst Weather, Fiber Network Proves Hurricane Proof

Friday, January 11, 2019

LIVE OAK, Fla. — “You want to experience anxiety? Let a storm roll in like what hit us about a month ago,” Milton Smith says.

Smith is a managing owner of Rising Oaks Assisted Living Facility, a center with 33 private and semi-private suites (and an on-site beauty shop!) between the city center and the freeway. He’s not worried about himself or his family alone. Rising Oaks is one of five in the Circle of Life Assisted Living family that, together, shelters and serves about 230 seniors.

Two years ago, he and his partners made a modest investment, he says, for a total Internet and telephone solution for the center — they brought Kinetic Business by Windstream’s fiber network all the way into Rising Oaks.

“We needed a system that took a lot of disparate pieces and put them together,” including an intercom system that notified everyone inside the building of an event, activity or an emergency, and “that worked with the phone system but wouldn’t interrupt phone conversations or Internet connectivity.”

Windstream designed just such a system for Rising Oaks, building intercom assets into a converged Dynamic IP network that supports high-speed Internet and telephone communication lines.

Smith and his partners didn’t realize just how reliable this new, powerful rig would be. Soon, though, they’d get just the right conditions to test it.

In Florida, storms are so mighty they’re named. Andrew. Ivan. Camille.

September, 2017, was the most active month of Atlantic hurricanes ever.

Irma, a Category 5 hurricane out in the Atlantic, pommeled the Florida peninsula from South Beach to the Okefenokee. Along with gale-force winds, the storm lashed north Florida with heavy precipitation that forced rooftop evacuations by watercraft in places.

“That tier-one upgrade Windstream did to fiber-optic cable? We had no downtime during the storm,” Smith said.

In October last year, the Atlantic coughed up another hurricane, Michael. Suwannee County braced itself. The forecast was dire.

“You’re already anxious in the middle of a storm … and to know that you’ve got, on top of all of it, you’ve got to be able to get in contact with parents and grandparents and close friends,” Smith says. 

“Families that can’t get in touch with their loved ones, I mean, that’s why the need for a system that really works is so stringent in this setting.” 

But the fiber Internet connection went unperturbed. The handheld telephones — Rising Oaks residents and staff are attached to about three dozen telephone numbers — worked without interruption.

Smith says he’s happy and confident that “there’s no faster Internet connection, more consistent Internet connection, more reliable Internet connection, anywhere.”

“And we utilize Comcast in certain areas. It’s not comparable.”