In August, it will be one year since Central Access, the broadband subsidiary of CAEC, began hanging the first mainline fiber of Phase I, 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 installtion 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 Phase I. Construction for customers in the eight grant zones will begin as the mainline fiber core in Phase I 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 Phase I, 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 Phase I 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 of Phase I, 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 Phase I, visit www.centralaccess.com.
Even if your home isn’t in Phase I, by signing up now, you will help determine the demand in your community, which will be important as construction begins beyond Phase I.