For answers for frequently asked questions or for the history of this project, visit here.
During the last 14 months, Central Access crews have been working along paved and dirt roads in our area to bring the vital service of high-speed Internet to members in CAEC’s service area because in today’s world this type of connectivity is a necessity.
Our fiber construction began last year on August 5 with a 400-mile fiber ring to serve CAEC’s 24 substations and six offices. The co-op’s Board also approved the creation of a subsidiary, Central Access, which is providing service to customers in proximity to this core fiber ring. This initial construction phase is broken into four parts: Part 1 is complete with fiber construction and home installations taking place and construction crews are completing work on parts 2-4. Construction is on track to be complete in these areas by the end of the year.
To date, we have nearly 2,000 customers connected and receiving lightning-fast fiber-to-the-home service from Central Access. To move past this initial phase, we need 35 percent of those passed to take the service —and currently, we have attained a connectivity rate of 33 percent, so we will achieve that goal.
In addition to plans for the core ring, grants have been awarded for several of our communities and those areas have been incorporated into our construction plans. For those located in grant areas, it is important to realize that there are several requirements that have to be met before funds are disbursed and permission is given to begin construction, so please be patient as we navigate through that process. For those outside of grant areas, it is important to recognize that being awarded these funds requires construction to be completed within a certain time-frame – usually two years, which means while we are continuing to construct our planned areas, receiving grants adds these new areas into the mix and can affect our planned timeline.
Outside of these grant areas, deciding where to construct past the core ring will be determined by you, the members. Soon, we will release a map of our service area containing zones. Customers will be able to see which zone they fall into and the interest level for our service within that zone. This is key since moving forward, customer demand will determine our construction route and zone activation, so the more people signed-up in an area, the greater chance that you will be next in line for construction. While this multi-year process will determine the order in which construction will proceed, no community will be left out of the project. Our goal is to provide high-speed internet to all of our members.
This makes it important to let your neighbors know about Central Access and encourage them to register for service at www.centralaccess.com. To help get the word out, we can send flyers and other promotional materials that can be passed out in your community. We can also host virtual meetings for your neighborhood to discuss Central Access. Just email us at email@example.com to request a meeting or promotional materials.
We’ve accomplished a lot over the last year, but there’s still a huge amount of work to do to get affordable, fast, reliable Internet to members of our communities. To give you perspective as to the scale of this project, the 400-mile core that we will finish constructing this year contains nearly 1,000 miles of fiber when taking into account the additional feeder lines and service drops. When compared to CAEC’s entire service area, which includes over 6,000 miles of line, it’s easy to see how this project will take multiple years to complete. But together, we can provide service to those areas no one has been willing to serve.
In August, it will be one year since Central Access, the broadband subsidiary of CAEC, began hanging the first mainline fiber, and a lot has changed.
Crews have strung more than 275 miles of the 400-mile fiber core that serves as the backbone of the system. From this mainline, drop lines, which bring the fiber from the pole to the customer’s home or business, have been run to 1,570 homes, and more than 700 customers are now online enjoying lightning-fast speed from Central Access with more being scheduled each day.
When COVID-19 and its related restrictions hit our area, the need for reliable, fast internet for those in our service area became even more apparent and renewed our drive. Crews continued the work necessary to bring this vital resource to central Alabama. Even when in-home installations were temporarily suspended for a three week period, we put technicians to work in other areas to expedite the installation process when it resumed.
Additionally, we were awarded $4.1 million in state grants on April 1, 2020, as a part of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund, administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). These grants will help us to bring lightning-fast internet to some areas with little to no connectivity that are outside of the initial core. Construction for customers in the eight grant zones will begin as the mainline fiber core is completed. The grant build-out must be completed in two years. Members in those areas will be notified soon.
As we continue the work necessary to complete the main core, we are very close to our goal of a 35 percent take-rate, which will allow us to evaluate new activation zones. Even if you’re not in the initial construction area, your sign-up, as well as those of your neighbors, does matter as data from areas that have paid the $25 commitment fee will help determine which areas or communities will be next in line for construction, and there’s still time to influence those decisions.
We’ve made a lot of progress as construction continues and new customers are brought online, but there’s still a lot to do. Building a complete fiber network from scratch does take time, but we’re closer today than we were a year ago, or even just a day ago, to reaching our goal of providing affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet to our members.
We’re entering the next exciting stage of making rural internet a reality and it’s not too late to get in on the action! As Central Access contract crews continue to work on the main-line construction, several additional crews are working on the lateral lines. These lines extend from the main line of our 400-mile core and will connect within approximately 700 feet of customer homes.
From these lateral lines, crews will begin running fiber drops from the pole to customer homes (who have paid the $25 commitment fee) in Part One of Phase I. This work will start at the main line from our West Operations Center in Verbena and extend south toward the Prattville Headquarters.
The fiber drop line will attach to a connection box, also known as a NID (Network Interface Device). The NID serves as the access point for the fiber from outside to inside the home. Once this step is underway, we will plan the next step of installing service to customer homes, which will bring service to some customers in Part One as early as January 2020.
This is the perfect time to sign-up for service with Central Access! If you haven’t done so, signing up now for just a $25 commitment fee will place your home on the fiber drop schedule, which is an exciting and necessary part of making lightning fast, affordable internet a reality! To see if your home is within the initial construction path, visit www.centralaccess.com.
Even if your home isn’t in the initial construction zone, by signing up now, you will help determine the demand in your community, which will be important as construction begins beyond.