Update on Rockland Fiber to the Home Construction Project

Plowing in conduit for fiber optic cable along Center street in Rockland

Plowing in conduit for fiber optic cable along Center street in Rockland

Fiber Optic Cable is coming to your home soon.

Updated September 17, 2014:  

Rockland Idaho – Matt Farr – Project Engineer: “We have completed installation to all of the homes in the southwest quadrant of town, and everybody along the highway south of town, up to Scott Hendrickson.

We also have about about 20 homes installed in the south east quadrant of town, primarily  the ones between Main Street and Pine on both sides of the alley. We are working on the remaining homes in that section of town.

We have also constructed fiber in the north east quadrant of town around the school, east from school and also around the entire bench area. Most of these have a drop cable installed to the house, but the fiber has not actually been spliced, so those homes are still connected via DSL until we cut them over to the new fiber.

Our construction crew is currently also working in the west quadrant of town, where we have about half of the homes in that area completed. (This is around the Spruce Street area, and down Willow Street. Later this fall will be going down Creamery Road and picking up all those homes. We hope by the end of the year to also complete  a fiber build out to the R-corner, and pick up a few more homes along the highway.

Our biggest challenge in upgrading our exchange area to fiber has actually been with the final installation of the new internet service inside the home. A lot of the older homes need new wiring inside and we have had to be creative in finding different routes to get through these homes to the routers and the computers, and just the general set up of the ONT and Wi-Fi in the home has been slow. We also had to bore under the Rock Creek several times  (six times already) in our construction, and we still have a couple more bores to do, so that’s always a bit of a challenge because we have to bore about 15 to 20 feet deep to make sure we’re under the riverbed.”

June 10, 2013-
Direct Communications crews completed burying the main conduit routes throughout the southwest quadrant of town. The southeast quadrant of the project includes 25 homes which will be  upgraded from existing copper plant to new fiber optic cable directly to the home.

Mid- June 2013, Direct Communications crews will start on the southeast quadrant of town, which is south of center street and east of main street. This part of the upgrade project will include 51 homes.

2013-rockland city fiber project

2013-rockland city fiber project, showing where new fiber lines will be buried, along with neighborhood handholds, and the drops to each home.

Directcom will be hosting an open house at their Rockland office on Tuesday July 9, from 5pm-7pm, to answer any questions customers may have about this fiber upgrade. Refreshments will be served.

Matt Farr, operations manager for Direct Communications, explained that this project would be rolled out in various phases. “The first task is to bury the main conduit 48″deep along the city streets, and place all the fiber handholds, which are kind of like manholes where all the fiber will converge for each neighborhood.  While one crew is laying the main grid, another crew will be plowing in the individual conduit drops to each home, and together this will take most of the summer.  This ripping or plowing process is designed to be very customer yard-friendly—we purchased a small maxi-sneaker that will just feed in a plastic conduit into a very thin trench, about 18″ deep, which is opened up by a blade. No reseeding of grass will even be necessary. The new drops to each home will follow the path of the existing copper wire in most cases. Sometime towards Fall the actual fiber optic cable will be blown into the underground plastic conduit, and the final fiber cable drop going to each home will need to be spliced back into the main cables going to each neighborhood node. After that, a new fiber electronics box will mounted inside of each home, which will convert the digital light signals sent over the fiber, into an Ethernet signal which can be read by home computers. We hope to start hooking up internet customers on their new fiber internet connections probably sometime during September.”

Here is a general summary of the project steps:

  1. Phase 1: Bury main conduit 48” deep along the city streets,
  2. Phase 2:  Place all the fiber hand holds (manholes where all the fiber will converge for each neighborhood.)
  3. Phase 3: Plow in individual conduit drops to each home. (½” plastic conduit into a thin trench, about 18” deep. The new drops to each home will follow the path of the existing copper wire in most cases.
  4. Phase 4: Blow fiber optic cable through the underground plastic conduit.
  5. Phase 5: Splice  final fiber cable drop going to each home back into the main cables going to each neighborhood node.
  6. Phase 6: Install new fiber electronics inside central office to feed homes.
  7. Phase 7: Mount new fiber NID (network interface device) on the outside of each home, near the old copper NID.
  8. Phase 8: Connect a new fiber ONT (optic network terminal), to be placed inside of each home, to outside fiber NID. This ONT will convert the digital light signals sent over the fiber, into an Ethernet signal which can be read by home computers.
Laying fiber conduit along Rockland center street

Laying fiber conduit along Rockland center street

Farr explained that there will actually be two new fiber boxes deployed to each home. On the outside of each home near the old copper NID (network interface device) the company would mount a  simple plastic box to act as a splitter, where the fiber from the street would meet a fiber to go inside the customer home. Inside the home, the company will provide a fiber ONT (optic network terminal) that will have a built in wireless router, in order to broadcast the high speed internet signal conveniently throughout the home, and customers could connect to the fiber directly via WiFi using their smartphones, tablets, or laptops, without needing to purchase an additional wireless router themselves. The ONT will also have two ports for phone service, and four ethernet ports, which a customer could use to directly wire any devices to the router. This ONT will need to be located close to a power receptacle inside, since it must be constantly powered for the electronics to function. The ONT does operate on a provided battery back-up, so that in the case of a power failure, phone and internet service will continue to function.

Farr wants to place the new ONT on the inside wall directly behind the existing copper NID if possible, so they can use the customers existing inside copper phone wiring for telephone service. On a fiber network, separate lines are required inside the home for the phone and internet service. Where necessary, because many older homes have inside telephone wiring that is not compatible with the new fiber equipment, Directcom techs may also need to run new CAT5 ethernet cable from the new fiber electronics box to a phone or ethernet jack inside the home, to make sure that customers will continue to receive both telephone and internet service. Customers may also have the option of paying a premium to have new CAT5 network cable run to various inside locations of their choice.

“We realize every home is going to present a different situation, with different wiring, so we will have to be flexible. Our end goal is to make sure the customer has an even better internet connection than they have currently on DSL.”

If you have any concerns or questions about this fiber project and how it will affect you, please call our main office at 208 548 2345.


A Message from Jeremy Smith:

Fiber Technology and Your Future

This summer you will see our crews working in your neighborhood. These are exciting times for our company and our customers.

We are now in the process of steadily upgrading older neighborhoods that were previously on copper, to fiber. Arbon is complete. During 2013 and 2014 we will be working on upgrading Rockland. We have a 5-year plan to convert all of our exchange areas from Bear Lake to Rockland to 100% fiber to the home, as long as the Federal government continues to support rural telecommunications. This is obviously going to be an enormous project, requiring millions in investment dollars, but we feel that each person in our rural exchange areas deserves fiber to the home.

This is our community too, and we are committed to ensuring the economic vibrancy of our rural towns. We at Direct Communications want to help provide a great quality of life for all of our customers. I see fiber optic cable as being non-negotiable to ensure the economic future of rural America, not just for our customers, but also for us to stay relevant as a communications provider. Some politicians in Washington feel that rural Americans don’t need as much speed as people in cities. I would argue that rural folks need high speed internet even more than their city counterparts because we are so remote, and fiber is the only way you can push a good, unlimited broadband signal out far enough to reach all of our customers. Having access to unlimited broadband is the future to economic development and personal educational opportunity in this global information economy.

Please be patient with us as we roll out this plan to bring you better broadband service.”

-Jeremy Smith -General Manager, Direct Communications

To find out more about why fiber will improve your internet service quality, see http://www.directcom.com/fiber-brochure.htm

Frequently asked questions: Fiber-To-The-Home Technology

How will a fiber connection improve my life?
Faster Speeds. Increased Reliability. Unlimited bandwidth. This is the most advanced method on the planet to deliver high-speed internet. Fiber is a great economic leveler for rural residents. Your home will have the same advanced connectivity as the most high-tech building in any major financial district in the world. Imagine a world where you can stream HD video to as many devices simultaneously as you want to without any buffering. Imagine a world where your internet service never goes down, and you never have to waste time calling tech support. This perfect connection can be yours with fiber optic cable. The fiber line running to your home from the main cable contains just a few strands of fiber, but those strands could theoretically carry all the information in the Western USA. We have the ability to provide up to 100MB per second to each home in the network. Fiber-optic cable carries an all-digital signal, and is better suited to today’s digital communication devices. Fiber optics are the future of communications, because both copper and wireless will eventually max out on the bandwidth people will require. Eventually, all media will be delivered as internet data. You will be ready for that future.

Do I need a modem with Fiber-to-the-home internet service?
No. Your fiber connection does not require a modem. Just plug your computer network cable directly into our optical network device, (ONT) mounted on the outside of your home, and you will be instantly connected directly to our network via pure ethernet.
50 Mb internet

Does my home need to be wired differently to take advantage of fiber-to-the-home?
The new fiber ONT separates the phone and internet signal, so they will need to travel over separate wires inside your home. We will run a new Cat5 cable into your home and install our service to one phone jack and one ethernet jack at a convenient location inside your home, so that you can hook up your phone, and computer or router.

Is a fiber network more expensive to build than copper? 
The price of fiber optic cable is now comparable to copper. The real expense with fiber is in the advanced electronics. The ONT (optical network device) that fits onto the outside of the home, is very expensive, because it’s a far more sophisticated system than the old copper devices. However, there is less maintenance required on a fiber network than copper, so over the years, it will save us, and our customers, a lot of money.

Will I be charged for the installation of fiber to my home?
No. We cover the full cost of the construction of the fiber and installing the new equipment on your home to connect the fiber. We will also waive the final service installation fee when it comes time for you to hook up your computer to our broadband service, with a 1-year commitment.

How is fiber optic cable installed? 
First, we bore, or plow in plastic conduit underground, which is a good method because it has very little environmental impact. We then blow the fiber optic cable through the conduit using compressed air moving at very high speeds. The high-velocity air flow causes the cable to float, and that way we can feed it through very easily. Where the fiber needs to be spliced to serve homes, we put in handholds, or buried manholes with loops of fiber, where we can branch off and pick up those new homes in the future.

Why a buried fiber network?
Buried networks are all about Reliability, Reliability, Reliability! You can count on your fiber conenction to work, from fire, to blizzard, to windstorm. Directcom’s fiber network is 100% buried—no wireless backhauls or downed lines to worry about. In the recent wildfires that damaged or wiped out many other providers communications lines in Idaho, Direct Communications was unaffected since all of our fiber network is safely buried.

Will Fiber increase the Value of my home?
Fiber to the home could increase the value of your home by as much as $5,000, according to the Fiber-to-the-Home Council. Our investment in your home means more money in your pocket. More importantly, fiber to your home means a higher quality of life for you in this digital information age, where so much of what we do to enrich our lives has moved online. More internet speed means more fun.
Fiber will also naturally lead to more economic development in your areas due to the advanced technology and internet commerce opportunities available in the area. This is especially important in rural areas, where a gap has traditionally existed in diverse economic opportunities—but in our new information economy—fiber puts us all on the same footing.
fiber means more speed

Will fiber increase my monthly rate?
No. Your fiber upgrade will not increase your Internet or telephone rates, unless a customer chooses to upgrade their features or speed.

Will new equipment be installed at my home?
Yes. The old Network Interface Device (NID) you currently have will be replaced by a slightly larger Optical Network Terminal (ONT). The ONT coverts the optical signal to ethernet. This unit will also contain the power supply and battery back up for the electronics. The ONT requires electricity. Since fiber cannot carry an electric power charge like copper used to, a battery back-up is required to power your phone service in the event of a general power outage. This battery is designed to last for 8 or more hours, depending on phone usage. Typically, the electronics use .001 kwh per month.

Will getting fiber to my home disturb my yard or property?
Though we may sometimes be required to dig across your yard to bury a new fiber line, our goal is to treat your property as if it were our own. Often, we will have buried conduit already in place. We will be always strive to promptly restore your property to a condition as close to original as possible. We will typically follow the path of existing copper lines during the upgrade. However, homeowners should also understand that your lot came with legal easements registered to each home, for power, water and communications, and anything planted or built over these easements will always be in danger of being disturbed or removed by any public utility companies. Remember to always call Digline at 811 before you dig.

What should I expect during the upgrade?
Although we began several years ago laying the necessary main conduit to each neighborhood, this last phase involves placing fiber or conduit all the way to your home. We will be making our way door to door to do a site survey and to let you know when your fiber connection is ready for service. When everything is in place, we will need to schedule an appointment with you for the final hookup to the network inside your home. We will need an adult present at that time.

About Brigham Griffin
Brigham Griffin, Marketing Director for Direct Communications, has been with the company since 2005. Brigham has an MBA from the University of Utah, and a BA in Communications from Brigham Young University. He is a Professional in Residence at Utah Valley University, and also serves as an adjunct professor of marketing at Idaho State University.

One Response to Update on Rockland Fiber to the Home Construction Project

  1. Pingback: Big-City Technology and Small-Town Idaho Collide | Telco Americana

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