Internet and Broadband access have become a vital part of our daily lives at work, school, home, play, for TV, and so many other activities. Anytime we have a question or need information, we know that the answers are “only a click away”.
We know the residents of Washington and Choctaw counties are concerned about the availability of high-speed Internet access. When the existing copper plant facilities were put into place, the original plans did not allow for offering DSL/Internet access. Therefore, these facilities have been stretched beyond their ability to perform. We also understand the difficulties in offering services that are priced comparable to services in an urban area or city; since we will only serve an average of 4.25 customers per one mile span of fiber construction in our area. Despite these challenges, our goal is to provide Internet access at the same premium quality level that we have provided our voice services since 1941.
Most engineers would agree that Fiber to the Home is the optimal method for delivering true high-speed quality Internet access today. Many years ago we considered this method, but the funding mechanisms, in combination with our local rates, were not sufficient for us to proceed with a total replacement of our copper wiring network with Fiber to the Home. However, with a vision of possible State and Federal funding sources, in 2018 we completed an engineering design which provided us the planning and cost estimates required to pursue this path.
The cost for replacing copper plant with fiber optic cable to each home was projected to cost in excess of $43 million dollars, averaging $10,057.00 per customer. When management reviewed the engineering designs and the cost to complete this effort, it seemed impossible to imagine that we could ever accomplish this task. However, we began the planning and work to apply for an Alabama Broadband Grant, and our work paid off when we were selected to receive $938,306.10 for 104.5 miles of Fiber to the Home for Choctaw county. The estimated portion of the Choctaw county project being funded by Millry Communications is $3.8 million. That project is in progress and approximately 16% complete.
One June 12, 2019, Millry Communications filed a loan/grant application with the United States Department of Agriculture/Rural Utility Services/Reconnect Broadband Program in the amount of $28,195,668.00, which would help provide Fiber to the Home funding for an additional 557 miles of construction. The mapped areas within our application area would encompass 470 miles within Washington county and 87 additional miles in Choctaw county. The program has limited resources and is offered to entities that met the filing requirements within all states and territories of the USA. It is a competitive 50% loan / 50% grant offering, and would certainly allow us to take the next big leap toward providing the Broadband and Internet services that the residents of our counties desire and need.
We will be notified by October 2019 as to whether we have been awarded this funding, and plan to begin the selection of a contractor as soon as possible thereafter. If we are not successful in this effort, we want our customers to know that we will continue to apply for loans/grants, and at the same time, will utilize our existing internal funds to continue the work of replacing copper infrastructure with fiber optic cable in small parcels throughout our local exchange area.