By Edna Ward
The earliest mention of electric services for the City of Opelika was March 29, 1890. The “Opelika Semi-Weekly Democrat” stated, “A lot has been purchased for the electric light plant in the vicinity of Trammells’ Wagon Factory.” Following the descriptions of machinery for the plant, the article tells “…he will be ready to turn on the lights in four weeks.” Since April or May of 1890, Opelika has been providing electricity to its residents.
From that humble beginning, Opelika now has one of the most advanced fiber optic systems in the world. Opelika Power Services can now provide citizens within the city limits of Opelika telephone, Internet and television in addition to electricity. Electricity is not available from OPS to every location in the city because some customers are served by Alabama Power and Tallapoosa River Electric.
Recent rumors circulating have caused confusion about some aspects of Opelika Power Services capabilities – like that Charter provides OPS’ signals. Mayor Gary Fuller, Don Boyd, field supervisor at OPS, and June Owens, manager of marketing and communications at OPS, all confirm that this is not the case.
Owens explained, “There are programming agreements with all networks we carry on our system. Ten satellite dishes receive OPS’ signals. Our head-end facility houses all receivers that in turn send the signal back to our customers. OPS’ fiber optic Internet, television (both analog and IPTV) and telephone services are our own. Additionally, multiple transport providers deliver OPS’ Internet bandwidth.
“In simpler terms, those agreements provide only the links, which enable Opelika customers to access the World Wide Web for Internet service outside of our network.”
What is IPTV? Owens explained, “It’s the system through which Opelika’s television services are delivered.”
Another prevalent rumor is that OPS will take out all the old wires in customer’s homes and put in new ones. Don Boyd explained it this way: “We will use existing cable when possible,” Boyd said. “We only change the connectors at the end of the cable. We test the wires to be sure they work. When they don’t, the new wires we use are RG6 instead of the RG59, which was used in the 1960s and 1970s.” The difference in the two, Boyd explained, is that RG6 has a thicker copper wire inside. RG59 cables were designed before high definition signals were available.
“Other cables will still work just fine in most cases. There is a box mounted on the outside of each house to convert a light signal back to one most existing wires can receive,” Boyd said
Many have asked, how long does installation take? Boyd explained, “On average probably about two hours or less depending on what they have to do.”
Boyd added, “OPS’ signal is transported from OPS to each customer’s home through fiber. Video signals are shared. Internet service is not split the way other providers do. There are no electronics between the head-end and the home, i.e., no fuses or splitters are on the line. In OPS’s basic tier of 75 channels, the monthly rate is $49.95; no box is required. Customers use their own TV remote. Tiers that include high definition will require a set-top box that comes with a remote. The monthly rate varies depending on the tier selection.”
Boyd stood behind the quality of OPS’ services unequivocally. “We offer services far superior to any other in our area with fair and competitive rates,” Boyd said. “OPS offer a free standard installation, no contracts, and, if later the customer disconnects, no penalty applies. We invite everyone within the city limits of Opelika to apply for services. We think they will be 100 percent satisfied with what they will receive.”
Some might be wondering – will OPS encrypt their basic tier of channels? June Owens replied, “Absolutely not. A large investment was made to provide that service. We won’t take it away. Many customers do not like the boxes.”
Owens pointed out, “In 2010 city leaders wanted to do something new – establish a very advanced fiber optic system enabling the offering of television, Internet and telephone services. The official launch date was Oct. 16, 2013. I truly believe in 10 years from now, people will look back and say, ‘Wow, this was the best thing that happened to Opelika. What an awesome asset for this wonderful town.’”
Owens added, “The citizens of Opelika own OPS. We live here. Customers can call us on a local telephone number and reach us. They can come in and speak with us face to face. OPS’ corporate headquarters are right here in Opelika.
“The money paid for services stays in Opelika,” Owens continued. “Was this investment costly to Opelika? Yes. But what better