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Reflective Group to bring fiber optic internet

Story by Jenna Stanbrough

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Baldwin City could see the benefits of faster, gigabit fiber optic internet by 2014.

Owners of Reflective Group, a “cloud technology startup paving the way for technology-centric small town economic development,” formed Dawn Fiber LLC in June to bring gigabit fiber optic internet to Baldwin City.

“We’re looking at building, essentially you can think of it as Google Fiber for small-town America,” Mike Bosch, CEO of Reflective Group, said.

Bosch said once Reflective Group started to outgrow the local internet infrastructure, the owners thought of moving the company elsewhere, but they wanted to stay in Baldwin City and not have to commute to work.

“About this time last year was when we kind of saw the writing on the wall that we were going to outgrow the internet infrastructure in Baldwin,” Bosch said, “and we started asking ourselves, ‘well, how do we get better internet into this town?’”

According to his article on the Reflective Group website, “Mike Bosch’s Small Town Story,” the answer was to start Dawn Fiber, “an internet service company building the most advanced internet infrastructure right here in Baldwin City, Kansas.”

Bringing gigabit fiber optic internet to Baldwin City could mean a lot of benefits for its citizens and businesses but would primarily help improve the quality of life in a generation that consumes an increasing amount of information and entertainment from the internet.

“That is how I think the society is moving in terms of how they view their consumption of information and entertainment,” City Administrator Chris Lowe said. “The quality of life amenity that we have for folks that live here to be able to consume information in that fashion is I think one of the biggest things that makes this project attractive for the city.”

Bosch said with social media’s increasing prevalence in today’s society, internet consumption is at its highest and will only continue to increase, so gigabit fiber optic internet is useful in adapting to the online shift.

“Social media is growing extremely fast, and … the so-called Zuckerburg law has demonstrated that (people) will share twice as much information about ourselves online than we did last year,” he said. “What that means is more internet is being consumed. Look at the way we’re entertaining ourselves. Whether it’s Netflix and Hulu streaming, internet, gaming, it’s all online … and so a lot of our entertainment has shifted to online and streaming online, and ultimately that means more consumption.”

After working to figure out the logistics, Dawn Fiber’s journey began in May with months of feasibility studies, sorting out legal issues, negotiating public right of ways, consultations, finding an effective marketing team and looking for contractors and construction.

“We know how to get fiber optic to the community. The real big challenge is once it’s here, how do you actually distribute it and how do you raise enough capital to build out an entire internet structure?” Bosch said.

Finally, they found Kennis Mann, who seemingly became the “leading expert in fiber optic technology” overnight.

“He had a lot of the expertise that we were looking for. He came on board in the spring to kind of head up Dawn Fiber for us,” Bosch said. “Then, once we had all the expertise and the components, we went to work on pulling it off.”

On Nov. 18, the Baldwin City Council will continue a public hearing about issuing up to $5 million in industrial revenue bonds to help the project.

“The city would be the issuer of what’s called an industrial revenue bond, which is a financing mechanism to allow industries in certain areas that’s identified by the statutes to receive property tax abatements and sales tax exemptions on construction of facilities that qualify under the statute,” Lowe said.

In essence, the bonds give the city ownership of the property, and the city then leases it back to the private business, in this case, Dawn Fiber. Since the property is technically the city’s, the private business does not have to pay property tax for the duration of the note.

Other areas of the community will also benefit from the internet system that is 1,000 times faster than the current internet infrastructure.

In addition to job growth, it will provide easier and broader access to education and telemedicine all without leaving the community.

Although Lowe said he believes bringing gigabit fiber optic internet to Baldwin City is a generation ahead in a rural environment, Bosch said the change needs to happen now.

“If we fast forward five years from now, we have twice as much consumption as we have happening today,” Bosch said. “What does that mean for our businesses? What does that mean for the quality of life? We have to do something now before we really start experiencing loss.”

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