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 the infrastructure for fiber-optic broadband:


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 folks 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 length, 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, and water. The end result is an engineered plan that contractors use to install the middle mile.


2. Digging and conduit: Using special equipment, installers dig trenches and lay conduit (the pipe that houses the fiber) to a depth of 18”. During this phase, fiber vaults and other equipment are also installed.


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


4. Fiber splicing: The final step in middle mile installation is to splice the fiber – basically, connecting all parts of your middle mile to the 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 the last mile based on your unique needs. Because each home and property are different, we start from the inside out to see how you are using your equipment and then work backwards to your connection at the middle mile. Here’s how the process works:


1. Excavation design: For this appointment, a Rock Island contractor creates an excavation design from your home to your nearest middle mile connection point.


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 form with your fiber rate plan selection, phone options, and incentive election


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


4. Home installation: The next steps include 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.


5. Service activation: For this final step, we schedule a technician to visit your home to activate your service. 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. If you need any additional network support, we can schedule a time to have a network technician come to your home to help you with your needs on a time and material basis.


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 is what starts your project rolling
  • Last mile payment: You will be asked to pay for your last mile invoice before we start last mile construction at your home. As mentioned in 2.2 above, you will be in control of your excavation design and the route we use to get to your home
  • 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 to get service. You pick the best rate plan that works for you. We bill you on a monthly basis for as long as you keep you service active