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January 17, 2009 12:39 pm

Powellink fiber network nearly done

Written by Tribune Staff

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Dennis Vrooman, with Powellink, works on an electrical meter connected to the home of Wayne Meidinger of Powell Wednesday morning. Meidinger's home is one of the first to receive fiber-optic service through Powellink. Vrooman, of Salt Lake City, has worked on the citywide fiber project in Powell for the past six months. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

11 of 13 fiber optic zones completed

After years of planning and months of waiting, some Powell residents are beginning to receive fiber-optic service for telephone, Internet and television at their homes.

As of Wednesday, splicing and testing were completed on 11 of the 13 Powellink zones. The 11 completed zones were released to Tri-County Telephone (TCT), the company providing service to local customers.

“That's a monumental step,” said City Administrator Zane Logan.

Until this month, only one zone had been released to TCT. Logan announced that 10 of the zones were completed late last week. An 11th zone, the “Cary Zone” in west Powell, was officially released to TCT Tuesday, Logan said.

“Going from one to 11 is pretty significant,” said Powellink Project Manager Ernie Bray. He added that the remaining two zones are nearly finished and should be handed over to TCT later this month.

Not all of the 11 zones are ready for customers quite yet as some final records are not in place, said TCT General Manager Chris Davidson. He said home installations have begun in four of the 11 completed zones.

Davidson said TCT is calling customers and getting installations scheduled. Right now, there's a waiting list through mid-February, he said.

“People are signed up and on the calendar,” Davidson said.

Several hundred Powell customers have shown interest in fiber-optic service, he said.

“It may be too early to determine what the overall interest is,” Davidson said.

TCT will rent the system and provide exclusive service for the initial six years, and then Powellink will be open to multiple providers, such as Bresnan and Qwest.

In 2007, infrastructure rental fees were estimated at $54 per household for three fiber services, assuming 30 percent of households subscribed.

“I expect we will easily exceed that 30 percent,” Davidson said Tuesday.

Construction for a city-wide fiber optic network began last May. Powell was divided in 13 zones to install the system. Once complete, fiber-to-the-home service will be available to every house and business in the city limits.

The project was scheduled to be finished last fall. Bray said problems occurred earlier in the project and delayed the final completion. Lack of resources, problems with subcontractors and waiting for materials were a few of the problems Bray outlined.

Earlier in the project, crews should have been laying 1,000 feet of line per week, but they were only laying a few hundred, Bray said.

Problems didn't come to Bray's or Logan's attention early enough, Bray said.

“Ideally, if we had enough resources in the beginning, enough crews, we would have done things differently and could have met the schedule,” Bray said. “Things did pick up at the end.”

As the project was delayed weeks and then months, it became more important that the project was completed to specifications, rather than meeting a deadline.

“It took a bit longer, but it definitely will be worth it,” Bray said. “Powell is ahead of a lot of communities in the country.”

Costs vary for residential and business service and depend on single-, double- or triple-play options.

Single-play choices for homes start at $18 for telephone-only, $28 for the basic television package and $42 for Internet service.

Rates for double-play begin at $58 for telephone and Internet, $70 for Internet and basic television and $42 for telephone and basic television.

Triple-play options, with Internet, telephone and television, begin at around $76 for the basic package.

“Most people are happy with the price and happy that there's no contract,” Davidson said.

TCT and Powellink will host future workshops to let the community learn more about the fiber-optic network and what businesses and residents will be able to do with the service. For more information, call Powelllink at 764-6500 or TCT at 1-800-354-2911.