Fiber optic cable being installed in Crawford County

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Vernon Communications was installing fiber optic cable Tuesday morning along Rounds Road near the intersection with Highway 27 just north of Seneca. (Photo by Ted Pennekamp)

By Charley Preusser

 

Projects to expand high-speed broadband internet, delivered on fiber optic cable to the premises, are currently being installed in Crawford County.

Two communications co-operatives, Richland Grant Telephone Co-op and Vernon Communications, are installing the fiber optic cable.

Both co-ops wish they were further along with their respective projects, but a late spring start, coupled with supply chain problems, are slowing progress. Nevertheless, White Construction Company is busy burying cable on the Vernon Communications project, which extends south from Rising Sun to Seneca and beyond.

Garin Mayer, the new Vernon Communications General Manager, is hopeful the first customers in the Rising Sun area could be hooked up by early October. From there, the spliced fiber optic cable will allow the co-op to continue installations at residences.

Vernon Communications hopes to have an outer ring of buried cable in place before that part of the project shtus down for the winter. The co-op will continue to splice cable and bring it into the residences and businesses.

The supply chain problem is what is currently delaying the installations for Vernon Communications. 

“We started the project a little late with the late spring,” Mayer explained. “We have no customers hooked up at this point. Like everyone, we are having a supply chain  problem. It’s starting to look like early October until we start hooking up customers. It was always a two-year project. We had hoped to be further along. It’s supply chain problems, a broken piece of machinery here and there.”

So, White keeps burying cable and another firm, Sorenson, is splicing the fiber and bringing it to residences. That’s where the supply chain problem hits. 

Vernon Communications ordered  Optical Network Terminals (ONT) to be delivered in spring. An ONT is a laser-equipped device that transfers the information to the house network on the fiber optic cable from the CO (Central Office), which is equipped with a OLT. An ONT is perhaps best described as a sophisticated modem. 

Well, the ONT are late arriving, but they’re coming and with them exceptional broadband internet – one gigabyte internet. Most people will not need a gigabyte. In fact, an adequate 50 mbps basic package would cost $55/per month. A gigabyte, which is rarely ordered, would cost about $500/month.

Next year, Vernon Communications hopes to bury cable for the middle of the project and have the entire network in place and operating by Sept. 1, 2023.

Vernon Communications just finished an earlier project at Eagle Mountain, a subdivision in Ferryville. Mayer said that project was very well received by the residents living there.

The Richland Grant Telephone Co-operative’s Phase One fiber optic cable installation is located in the eastern portion of the county. It can be roughly described as an area from Rolling Round to Mount Zion to Plugtown to Petersburg. The project was made possible with the help of a federal ARPA grant in 2021.

The start of work on Phase One was delayed for RGTC, as they worked to finish similar projects they had started outside the area However, Lien said JJ Vondrum would begin burying fiber optic cable in the Rolling Ground area soon.

When the cable is buried and drops to residences are made. The fiber optic is spliced and then the connection can be installed.

Lien was joined by  RGTC General Manager John Bartz in asking the public to not call the office with inquiries about the fiber optic cable availability.

“We don’t need 50 or 60 calls to the office, when there’s nothing to be done,” Bartz said. “People don’t need to call us. We’ll call them, when it’s time to sign up. We’ll be sending out letters to residents when it’s time to sign up.”

RGTC says the hookups will probably be in the fall of 2023, but they’re hoping it will be earlier. The project should be completed in early to mid-2024.

Once Phase One is completed, RGTC will take on Phase Two, which will head west from an area near Highway 61 down Highway 60 to Wauzeka and then north to Steuben. RGTC Phase Two will start in early to mid 2024.

Although the projects are just starting, there is some definite excitement in Crawford County about expanding broadband internet access.

“We’re certainly at the halfway point in a long journey,” said Dale Klemme, the former facilitator of the Crawford County Broadband Committee. “We have projects funded that will bring fiber to 75 percent of the previously unserved and underserved–not including Prairie du Chien.”

Klemme is interested in finding a provider for the other 25 percent that currently will remain unserved and underserved. The area not yet scheduled to get fiber-to-the-residence is roughly a very rural area between Wauzeka, Steuben and Lynxville.

The goal for Crawford County is what Vernon County is about to achieve–access to fiber optic cable to residence for everyone.

Another person interested in expansion of broadband internet through fiber optic cable to the premises is Seneca’s Camille Smith.

“It certainly is gratifying to see the progress happening in the county,” said Camille Smith, a founding member of Crawford County Communications Coop. “We at 3C Coop are happy to have been part of the equation to make this happen. Despite supply delays, Crawford County is so much better off, having spent money wisely for technology that is future proof. True fiber to all homes and businesses alike! What the community needs, and the community pitches in on, the community gets!”

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