Troy residents should prepare for that new speedy connectionThis is the year when all of the town of Troy gets wired for high-speed Internet. The broadband initiative is a collaboration between the town and Baldwin Telecom Inc. (BTI).
By: By Phil Pfuehler, Hudson Star-Observer
This is the year when all of the town of Troy gets wired for high-speed Internet.
The broadband initiative is a collaboration between the town and Baldwin Telecom Inc. (BTI).
It represents years of research and the efforts of the Town of Troy Broadband Committee, headed by Warren Vollmar.
The money for the $9 million project comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed two years ago by Congress. Half the money is in the form of a grant, the other half is a loan to draw on as work proceeds.
According to BTI Manager Larry Knegendorf, “These (federal) stimulus funds for broadband will help play an important part in bringing 21st century infrastructure to all residents of the town of Troy.”
Broadband data access helps rural areas take full advantage of increasing Internet usage and creates jobs.
“Troy residents have a one-time opportunity to have fiberoptic cabling brought to their home at a much reduced cost,” said Troy Town Chairman Ray Knapp. “The cost of bringing the cable up to every home is part of the federal stimulus grant awarded to BTI and the town. If residents decide to wait, there will be utility fees and trenching costs that must be paid later.
“The town board encourages every resident to review their options and take the action that they feel is appropriate. This is an exciting time, and the availability of a fiber-network is a huge deal for our town.”
The fiberoptic (broadband) installation across Troy starts in May. It should end by October.
The hookup from road rights of way through yards and up to homes is done at no cost for residents.
New Richmond-based Tjader & Highstrom is the contractor hired to “plow” and lay the fiberoptic cables.
BTI’s Operations Manager Matt Sparks listed key phases of the project:
“You shouldn’t even be able to tell where they were there working,” Sparks said.
And what must the roughly 1,700 Troy households do to get ready for the town’s broadband project?
Sparks said the contractor will need to bring fiberoptic cable through a one-inch PVC pipe into the house and attach it to an Optical Network Terminal. The terminal can also be kept outside a house, but the PVC conduit running inside is still needed.
To prepare a house, Sparks said residents will need to make sure they have centralized low-voltage wiring. Most houses built in the last 15 years or so have this. However, they will still need to add the PVC conduit.
Residents can try doing the work themselves, or contact one of these area firms with training for the Troy fiberoptic project: Ward Tewinkel Electric, (715) 425-7336; Helgeson Electric, (715) 684-2402; Enterprise Electric & Alarm, (715) 928-0026; Scott Freer Electric, (715) 381-1155; Monicken Electric, (715) 684-2609; Ron Burton, (715) 222-4887; Richardson Electric, (715) 672-3357; William Denzer: Home Media Innovations, (715) 377-0606.
Sparks said the cost to hire out for the wiring-and-pipe installation can vary. On average, he said the job will cost from $120-$240.
Most modern houses have low-voltage wiring stored in a plastic container by the circuit-breaker box in a utility room.
Broadband preparation costs will be higher for older houses with finished basements where access to wiring is limited.
Residents can refuse to have the fiberoptic cable run through their land and connected to their house.
Starting this week and going through spring, Sparks said a BTI representative will be going door-to-door. The employee, in a clearly marked company truck, will wear a BTI jacket and I.D. badge.
The employee will explain the broadband installation project and answer questions. If a homeowner doesn’t want to participate, that decision will be noted and followed.
Sparks said if no homeowner contact is made, then BTI will not do any work on that person’s property or home.
Knapp urged constituents, even those not interested in high-speed Internet, to have the fiberoptic cable installed in their homes.
He said that for one thing, if people change their minds and later ask BTI to plow and install the fiberoptic cable, the work is no longer free and the town’s $100 utility fee — waived for this project — will be added.
“If you don’t hook up now, it will cost you later,” Knapp said.
Sparks estimated the cost to plow and install the fiberoptic cable at a minimum of $200 for subdivision houses within 100 feet of roads. The cost for houses set farther back and on steep, rocky inclines would be much more.
Knapp said another reason to get a house wired and connected for fiberoptic — even if you don’t sign up for any high-speed Internet services — is the investment factor.
“For those people who are in the computer age, especially those at work who are transmitting data online daily, they recognize how important a project like this is,” he said. “However, even for those on the fringe, who don’t use a computer much, having high-speed Internet installed in your house is said to add about $6,000-$7,000 in value.
“Many people moving into a house today expect to have that in place. If you don’t have that, it limits the market value of your home.”
Troy residents who wish to let BTI know of their intentions should go to www.baldwin-telecom.net. Click on Troy, scroll down to No. 7 and access “Click to View Form.”
This will take users to a Customer Check-Off Form, with questions to answer, including if you plan to sign up for high-speed Internet, phone and cable services. When completed, this form should be printed and mailed to the Baldwin-Telecom address.
Starting in August, BTI customer service reps will phone Troy residents to verify the information and to schedule the installation of services.
Service installation costs $79.95. The work takes an hour or two and is done from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
For the immediate future, Sparks said BTI is the only high-speed Internet provider for Troy. He did say the federal guidelines label the new fiberoptic lines in Troy an “open network.”
While it’s not totally clear what that means, it implies that in the future other Internet providers could lease the network from BTI and provide competing services.
“In any case, there is no obligation for Troy residents to use us as an Internet provider,” Sparks said.
However, he pointed out that BTI is a local business that dates back 110 years. He said its Internet, phone and cable-TV services aren’t affected by weather or geography.
BTI doesn’t lock Internet customers into lengthy contracts. Instead, they pay monthly bills.
For a 2-megabit high-speed connection with BTI, the cost is $39.95 a month; for the faster 3-meg, $49.95.
Sparks said a popular package deal combines phone, cable-TV with 150 channels, and 10-meg Internet for $131.05 a month.
Could the high-speed Internet age coming to Troy be replicated in the other surrounding towns?
Don’t hold your breath, town of River Falls, Kinnickinnic, Clifton and Martell. Sparks said the Troy venture was made financially feasible because of the federal stimulus.