TVN's Audrey Clark, flanked by Adam Moore (left) of Adam Moore Construction and Lee Denton of Trenton Telephone, her coworkers in the push to extend high-speed internet to Dade's remote hillsides and hollers.
“Can you gig it? Yes, we can!”
That’s the jaunty catchphrase that Audrey Clark, marketing director at TVN, came up with for the rollout of the company’s new 1-gig-speed internet capacity. She’s been waiting a long time to say it.
In mid-Juy 2016, when the company “pre-announced” the rollout of the “Independent State of Gig,” The Planet ran an article quoting Ms. Clark as saying the big day would come by the end of the month or the beginning of August. That didn’t happen.
Why not? “It actually ended up taking that long to be ready,” said Ms. Clark in a recent phone interview. “TVN is building this whole area from scratch.”
TVN, she explained, preferred to wait to make the announcement until it had sufficient infrastructure in place to avoid disappointing customers eager to sign up. The company, which grew out of Trenton Telephone, has learned from bitter experience as it expanded first telephone service, then internet and cable TV, up the mountainsides and through the woods of this rural county that demand is always greater than supply. Most lately, TVN has been hard put to extend fiber optics fast enough and far enough to provide the higher-speed internet service to everyone who wants it.
So it’s been not so much a rollout as an ease-out. Even now, almost a year after the initial tidings, Ms. Clark’s announcement of the gig-speed capability comes not with a trumpet fanfare but with this cautious statement:
“In the areas that we can now provide fiber to, which is not all of them--not the whole county but in areas of the county that we have fiber to--we can now also provide up to a gig.”
Anyway, said Ms. Clark, the story ought to be about the availability in Dade not so much of gig capacity but of fiber optic high-speed internet in general. Gig capacity is available in 90 percent of the areas around the county where fiber has been laid (Ms. Clark lacked the engineering savvy to say why not the remaining 10 percent), but for most residential and in fact business customers, the lower-end fiber optic speeds of 100-500 mbps (megabits per second) are plenty fast enough. Not that many customers have yet opted for the more expensive gig speed, she said.
A gig, or gigabit, is a unit of speed equal to 1000 megs, or megabits, 10 times the speed of TVN's entry-level fiber optic speed of 100 mbps. But that 100 mbps is the stuff of dreams for the many TVN customers still served only by DSL. TVN hooked up its first fiber optic customer in 2012, a consummation that was delayed by the tornadoes of 2011, which ripped out power lines and other infrastructure in Dade.
TVN offers bundle deals for TV, phone and internet, but basic residential fiber optic internet service with phone starts at $69.95 a month for the 100 mbps speed. Customers can pay more for 250 or 500 mbps, topping out at $189.95 per month for the gig speed. Readers may check those and other deals out at http://www.tvn.net/internet/.
But again, the fiber speeds are not yet available to all Dade households, stressed Ms. Clark. (And stress is the right word here; such was the affable Ms. Clark's tone that The Planet suspected the presence in her desk drawer of Advil, or stronger, to buoy her after sessions with customers to whose neighborhoods fiber optic cable have not yet been extended.)
Where is fiber optic internet available? Sections of Sand Mountain, particularly Highway 301 North; Trenton, particularly downtown Trenton; south on Highway 11 (“To a point,” said Ms. Clark); Rising Fawn (“But not all of Rising Fawn”); and areas of Lookout Mountain.
“It would take me two days, probably, to look up all the actual, factual addresses,” said Ms. Clark. “But anybody can call the office or come into the office and see if it’s available at their location.”
She described TVN’s fiber optic coverage area as “limited, but growing as we can grow it.” Which can take a while, she explained.
“It starts with an infrastructure as well as just the fiber lines themselves,” she said. “The infrastructure for each area serviced has to be built from scratch and the fiber optic lines have to be laid or strung.”
And a lot can affect the timetable of that, she said: “The weather, what kind of ground you get, be it very rocky or very thick, and on and on. There’s so many things that factor in.”
As to how TVN chooses which areas to extend fiber to next, Ms. Clark said that decision is out of her pay grade but she imagines it depends on what infrastructure is already in place and how many customers can be expected in how big a space.
In the case of the Canyon Ridge development atop Lookout--to which Ms. Clark announced at the June Dade County Commission meeting that TVN was providing fiber internet--TVN had started the infrastructure years ago, before the 2008-9 housing market crash stalled that and many other building projects. “It was partially built, so it was more cost-effective to go ahead and complete that,” she said. “We could get more customers in a concentrated area.”
Ms. Clark says that TVN continues to lay fiber and build infrastructure and is bringing Dade into the 21st century as fast as it can.
So: Can you gig it? Depending on where you live, the answer may well be, "Yes we can!"
But some may have to add: "Eventually."
Photos contributed by TVN.