High speed internet comes to rural areas
Laying cable in Dayton, Farmington
By James Card
Fiber optic cables will soon bring high speed internet to rural residents in Farmington and Dayton.
Work crews are already installing the mainline pipe in the vicinity of Cobbtown Road and River Road.
Country living in Waupaca has its benefits but the modern curse is slow or haphazard internet access, or none at all.
Many rural residents in the area have dealt with shoddy satellite service or trickle-speed cellular networks.
For them, watching the Windows wait cursor is a way of life. The Covid-19 lockdowns made it worse.
Working from home, studying in virtual classrooms, live video conferencing, or streaming entertainment is often an exercise in hopelessness when dealing with slow and spasmodic internet speeds.
For some households in rural Waupaca, that will radically change.
Amherst Communications is expanding their network into northern and western Waupaca County.
The fiber optic cable they are installing along roadsides will deliver high-speed internet, television packages and phone services.
“So we always say when we are bringing fiber optic technologies, which we have been doing since 2008, we’re bringing the same stuff that Verizon is touting, and AT&T and Google Fiber. This is no different than what they are getting and we are bringing this to the rural areas,” said Rick Letto, general manager of Amherst Communications.
Building communication infrastructure in rural areas has been the company’s specialty since 1903 when it installed telephone lines on wood poles throughout the countryside.
Since then, the company has seen its wires go from the tops of towers to being buried underground, the invention and distribution of cable TV, and now the internet via fiber optic cable.
Their network extends into areas other telecoms will not go. It ranges from Lake Du Bay, Bevent, Polonia, Rosholt, Plover, Iola, Scandinavia, Buena Vista and now the fringes of Waupaca.
“We know what we are good at and we are good at rural,” said Letto.
Funding for this infrastructure comes from a variety of sources and it starts with a public and private partnership.
Amherst Communications covers half the cost of the project, and then works with townships to obtain matching state broadband grants and federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that are given to states and towns to upgrade sewer, water or broadband.
In the town of Dayton, a grant was awarded to lay fiber around Stratton Lake.
To leverage off of that work, Dayton applied for another grant to cover most of the nearby homes west of State Highway 22.
A decision on the grant will be known by October and work could start next year.
Work in progress
Two contractors are involved in the project. Mytek is desiging and engineering the project and AJ Construction is doing the trenching and laying the piping.
They are making progress and huge coils of orange tubing are being laid underground. Construction is or will be taking place around Cobbtown Road, Oakland Road, Nelson Road, Popple Court, Hillcrest Drive, Oak Drive, Ware Road, River Drive, Frontage Road and Riverwood Drive.
“The challenge we are having now is the supply chain. Our contractor told us just yesterday that the pedestals which we put on the side of the road and are key to service—we were supposed to receive them in September, but now were aren’t going to get them until possibly December,” said Letto.
Inside the pedestals are ports and from there, lines can be fed into multiple homes. Currently, the work crews in the Farmington Township are laying the mainline. Once the pedestals are in place, technicians can hook up individual homes.
It takes six to eight weeks from the time someone calls for service to the time high-speed intenet is pipelined into a home. Letto said it could be even sooner, it just depends on the waiting list.
Residents can mix and match services or get them bundled together at differently priced packages. Installation is free. There are no data caps and WiFi is included. The fastest internet speed is 400 megabytes per second.
For television, three packages range from a mix of local channels to an expanded selection of 124-plus channels.
There is also phone service with unlimited long distance and other add-on services.
They also have an internet security service for protecting routers, devices and adding parental controls that can monitor, schedule and block traffic coming into the home.