At the end of every year, OTELCO looks back at the different Fiber builds we worked on and reviews what will come next. This year, we are changing things up a little bit.
2019 was about more than just fiber for OTELCO. We took a step back and reevaluated the most efficient way to better serve all our customers. Fiber is still a priority, but we also decided to update existing infrastructure to provide faster speeds to a more significant number of customers. To reflect that, this year’s Fiber by the Numbers will include the different upgrades we made in each state, be they Fiber, DSL, Cable, or Wireless.
On June 4th, 2019, OTELCO announced plans to invest $5 million into our Alabama footprint. Those funds were allocated towards Lightwave fiber expansion in the Arab area, coaxial cable upgrades for Blount County, and a move towards Very High Bit-Rate DSL (VDSL) wherever possible.
Fiber progress in Arab began in August of 2019 and has moved along quickly. OTELCO has already built an additional 71 miles of fiber in Arab, and parts of Joppa. Those miles included 2,150 new locations, which is over half of the estimated 4,100 locations we expect to cover by the end of the build this spring.
Cable upgrades have also come along nicely. OTELCO is continuing to upgrade our cable systems and has successfully changed out all of the older modems. With these changes, we essentially doubled our available bandwidth. In 2020, we will continue to update to the newest and fastest cable systems, DOCSIS 3.1, which has the capacity to reach gigabit level speeds.
In the spirit of bringing better value to our Alabama customers, OTELCO has been either upgrading customers to higher speed tiers or lowering their monthly costs, throughout our footprint. So far, we have been able to improve service for over 5,000 of our Alabama Cable and DSL customers. Now we’re taking it further as we look to deploy VDSL, wherever feasible, in 2020.
OTELCO did a great deal of work in Maine’s rural Penobscot county in 2019. We expanded fiber in Plymouth and worked with the town of Alton on a town-wide fiber build. We also conducted a planning project with Argyle township. As of today, the Plymouth build is complete, adding 400 new locations.
In Alton, with the help of the ConnectME Authority, we collaborated with town leaders to expand our 2017 fiber build, and subsequently cover the town in Lightwave fiber. Engineering broke the build into two sections, Alton East and Alton West, with East starting in September and completed in December. More than 85 locations on the east side of town have been installed to date. Construction in Alton West is well underway, and installs may be scheduled as soon as February 2020.
After an extensive community outreach and planning initiative in Argyle, the Penobscot County Commissioners, in December, gave their verbal support for the use of TIF funds to augment OTELCO’s planned investment to build a town-wide Lightwave network. Currently, OTELCO and the County are working together to develop the full application for the official approval of the funding. Once complete, OTELCO will also make an infrastructure grant application to the ConnectME Authority in the upcoming grant round.
In Missouri, OTELCO focused on expanding coverage of VDSL in the network and improving our wireless services. Our VDSL project is complete, and now many Missouri customers can access speeds up to 100 Mbps on the upgraded network. On the wireless side, we successfully installed two new LTE towers and are nearing completion on a 3rd. These new towers will allow us to offer speeds as high as 75/10 Mbps.
In Vermont, OTELCO added two dozen fiber locations. We also added some fiber backhaul into our infrastructure to increase bandwidth for many of our rural Vermont customers. Right now, we are focusing on a fiber project that will cover West Cornwall that is engineered to provide 75 new fiber locations by March of 2020.
For OTELCO, 2020 is about advancing our technology to maintain our tradition of bringing rural communities, businesses, and people together. We will do this by providing a minimum of 25/3 Mbps to 50% or more of our customers, and fulfilling our ACAM commitment to add approximately 20,000 new fiber locations by 2028. If you haven’t yet, please subscribe to our OTELCO blog so that you can stay up to date with all of our future progress.