Building a Fiber-Optic Infrastructure

A Construction Effort

The key concept to understand about getting fiber-optic broadband is that it is a major utility construction effort involving excavation and Rock Island utility crews. There are three components to building this infrastructure:

  1. Backbone – the main fiber line installed by OPALCO
  2. Middle mile – the shared fiber that connects multiple properties to the backbone
  3. Last mile – the fiber that connects individual homes to the middle mile

Rock Island is working with neighborhood associations and other “fiber groups” across the county to connect homes and businesses to OPALCO’s fiber backbone. There are two primary phases to this build out.

1 – Middle Mile Fiber-Optic Construction

Rock Island works closely with organized fiber groups to understand their unique needs and to devise a middle mile installation plan and cost estimates. Upon final design agreement and funding, Rock Island schedules installation with trusted contractors.

The time it takes to build out your middle mile depends upon many variables, such as the distance, topography, and existing infrastructure. Most middle mile builds range from one to four months and consist of the following phases:

1. Engineering and Preparation: Rock Island engineers work with contractors to understand the terrain and locate infrastructure and existing utilities, such as phone, electrical, septic and water systems. The end result is an engineered plan that contractors use to install the middle mile.

2. Digging and Conduit: Using special equipment, installers excavate and lay conduit (the pipe that houses our fiber) to a depth of 18” in private roads and 30″ in county roads. During this phase, fiber vaults and other equipment are also installed.

3. Fiber Installation: Once conduit goes in the ground, fiber-optic cable is installed inside the conduit.

4. Fiber Splicing: The final step in a middle mile installation is to splice the fiber – basically, connecting all parts of a Middle Mile to our fiber backbone.

2 – Last Mile Fiber Optic Construction

Rock Island coordinates last mile installations directly with property owners. As the property owner, you control this process and we design and install your last mile based on your unique needs. Here’s how the process works:

1. Engineering and Excavation Design: A Rock Island Fiber Engineer evaluates your property and designs a best-case plan to bring fiber to your building based on the unique circumstances of your land. Then they work with an excavation contractor to complete and price an excavation design. Once this process is complete, we generate invoices and provide you with a total cost to connect. 

2. Paperwork (Welcome Packet): Once the contractor submits your excavation design estimate to Rock Island, we generate a work order and related paperwork which includes:

  • A service order with your last mile cost estimate
  • An easement for you to sign so we can work on your property
  • A customer information packet with your fiber rate plan selection and other connection options

3. Last Mile Construction: Once your paperwork is complete and payment has been received, Rock Island can schedule and begin your Last Mile project, which includes digging, laying conduit, and installing fiber between the middle mile connection point and your home.

4. Home Installation & Service Activation:: The next steps includes setting a junction box on your home, jetting and splicing your fibers on both ends, and performing any interior build-out needed inside your home to connect you to our fiber network. We’ll bring your fiber modem and connect you to the Internet. At this time, we test your connection, connect one of your computers, and show you how to access the modem’s wireless network. 

Costs and Payments

There are a few costs associated with a fiber build and payment may depend on how your group chooses to organize. They typical payment milestones are as follows:

  • Middle Mile Payment: Your share of your middle mile build will be the first bill you see. Receiving your groups Middle Mile payment in full is what starts your Middle Mile project. 
  • Last Mile Payment: Send in your Last Mile paperwork and payment to start your Last Mile construction. 
  • Activation Fee: Once you are connected, you will be charged a one-time activation fee of $150. This fee will appear on your first fiber rate plan bill.
  • Your Monthly Rate Plan: Each fiber connection requires a rate plan for service. You pick the rate plan that works for you and we will turn you up to that speed amount while we’re there. We bill you on a monthly basis for as long as you keep your service active.

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