2021 YEAR END FIBER UPDATE
Dear Tombigbee Members and Tombigbee Fiber Customers:
As 2021 came to a close, we have had the opportunity to reflect on where we have been and where we are going in Bringing Your Fiber to You! In our first report to you, we focused on the looming question in everyone’s mind: “When will I get service?” It is with great anticipation that each of you wait patiently. This year has shown us that fiber to the home is a necessity, an equalizer that brings the ability to improve the way of life in rural America to be equal to or better than other places around the country. Telemedicine, work from home, access to social media and entertainment, and moreover bringing families together during these trying times is what fiber brings to you. Tombigbee Fiber understands our mission. We also understand your desire for us to be complete and to serve each and every one of you. We share that desire, and are working diligently to get there.
In November of 2020, we had less than 300 miles of active fiber serving only 100 customers. Today, Tombigbee Fiber has approximately 1,600 miles of active fiber passing 22,951 of your homes, businesses and locations. Many of that number had no other provider when we brought them service. Currently, over 7,700 homes and businesses enjoy our Tombigbee Fiber service. For context, Tombigbee Electric has approximately 40,000 members, and in just two years’ time, we have reached over half of you with world class service. Tombigbee Fiber is making great strides to Bring Your Fiber to You!
Some of you may face a choice between Tombigbee Fiber over one of our competitors. We ask that you consider what stands us apart from them. The answer is Service! We pledge to you the highest level of service both in the quality of the fiber service as well as the support and maintenance we offer. We bring you true fiber to the home. We offer verifiable, consistent and reliable speeds. Don’t accept anything less than true reciprocal speeds download and upload to meet your growing needs. Our packages are 100/100 and 1000/1000.
Additionally, for many of you, you must ask if not Tombigbee Fiber, who? The internet has existed for as long as many of us remember. Fiber has been around since the 1950’s and has been a viable, yet expensive, alternative for many years. Our competitors simply chose not to come to most of you. Their decision was based upon profit, or a lack of it. Presumptively, their decision was based upon the assumption that no one else would undertake to serve you, so why should they. Or most certainly no one would invest in a fiber to the home infrastructure to bring you world class service. Decisions that we (America’s Cooperatives) similarly overcame with the rural electric movement of the 1930’s. Back then, the investor-owned profit driven utilities would not reach out to serve rural America. Communities came together, formed cooperatives and worked hand in hand to bring electricity to people just like you. Again, if not us, who? The answer was no one, until we did it. No one would build to you or offer you the service you deserved. Now others are going to try to follow suit. They are going to offer service where they would not before. We applaud their efforts and welcome the competition. However, keep in mind they only do so in certain areas and not in an effort to serve an entire area or region and always with a motive for profit. Ask yourself, where do the dollars you pay these groups go? We instead will bring Your Fiber, to each of you. We will keep your funds here in this area to build this network, to employ your friends and neighbors, and to serve you. It does not matter if you are the last house or the only house on the long gravel road, we will serve you. It does not matter if the costs are too great, or profit is distant. Tombigbee Fiber will come. We will serve you and all of your neighbors. We will do so in the name of community, in the spirit of service. We will do our best to bring you quality, reliable, affordable world class fiber to the home internet and VOIP telephone service.
We also set ourselves apart when trouble does inevitably occur. Tombigbee Fiber has answered many service calls in less than an hour. We most often provide service the same day. We have always responded by the next day, if not before. In an emergency situation, we will respond with immediacy. You are our friends, neighbors and families. Tombigbee is your cooperative, and this is Your fiber network. Tombigbee Fiber is responsive and communicative and respective of your time and schedule. Ask anyone with whom we have worked, installed, served or even solved trouble. Most importantly, Tombigbee Fiber uses its own in-house fiber techs: Matt D., Brian, Eddie, Dustin, Matt R., and Cody, with over 90 years combined experience. Experience the difference, you will not go back. Simply put if you need us, our Red Truck Team will be there!
Additionally, please don’t be fooled by introductory rates or temporary promises from our competitors. Our rates are not introductory, they are not temporary. We do not have hidden fees. Tombigbee Fiber, LLC is owned solely by your cooperative. Our motive is service and community, not profit. Certainly, we have to be good stewards of our members resources and repay the capital costs and loans undertaken to fund this project, and our current pricing is designed to do just that. In the future, we have hopes and goals to permanently lower rates as more of our members and customers take advantage of our service. We provide you with world class service that includes a modem and router at no additional charge. We also offer you an APP, parental controls and some ProtectIQ software, included in regular pricing. We hope you take advantage of these services. Moreover, we offer you a customer service experience like no other. Why would you do business with anyone other than yourself?
We often get the following questions:
When will I have service at my house or business? If you are in Phase 2 (Belden, Mooreville, Tremont, Ryans Well, Kirkville, Marietta areas), you are predicted to be served prior to June of 2022. If you are in the Shannon, Nettleton and South Lee County, you should be in the first half of Phase 3, June of 2022 to December of 2022. If you are in Fairview, the first half of 2023 should bring you service. Pontotoc Electric Territory (East of Highway 15 in Pontotoc and Union County), June of 2023 to December of 2023. We hope to be to each of you sooner, but these are reasonable goals that we plan to meet or exceed. We have contractors working 7 days a week to meet or exceed these goals.
Why have you built in my area, but not turned us on? Construction consists of several steps. The hanging of fiber on the pole is not enough to turn it on. You simply cannot just energize the fiber like a power line. We have to set and build the fiber hut, consisting of a great deal of electronics. We have to bring content to the hut via a main line fiber. We have to do splicing in between the hut and your location, making hundreds of splices. We have to place and splice in thousands of taps, the black boxes on the poles. We have to complete the entire feeder to turn it on. From the outset, to keep this project more economical, we have endeavored to follow our power routes. Unfortunately, doing so at times results in service getting near you, but stopping. The plan must be organized and built to maintain in the future. It took Tombigbee Electric eighty (80) years to build its power grid. We are building the same mileage of fiber in less than four (4) years. Once complete, all Tombigbee members will have service available. Once they do, we will build to our neighbors in Pontotoc Electric’s territory in Phase 4.
Why are you not building the rural areas first? We had to start where we could get internet content and build out. Our staff explains that as the spider-web effect. You have to build the supporting strands of the web first in order to branch out. You start from the center. Stated otherwise, there was no internet content available in the most rural most. We started more centrally to our system and have been building seven days a week since. We don’t have any feeder or fiber path that does not have some rural customers. Our mission is not to serve only rural customers, its to serve all of Tombigbee Members first and then beyond to our neighbors in Pontotoc. We have undertaken what we believe to be the best plan to accomplish that. We started our build centrally where we could obtain fast reliable internet content from wholesale providers. We have built outwardly in a systematic way which minimizes costs and attempts to get more customers on soon as possible.
Didn’t you receive grant money to build the rural areas first? For most of Tombigbee Electric service area the answer is we did not. We did receive grant money to build in the northwest corner of our system, the Campbelltown area (north and west of Guntown), from the State of Mississippi as part of Cares Act. We matched those funds dollar for dollar, built and opened that area December of 2020. We will in the future receive some federal dollars under the RDOF grant program to build some federally defined “unserved” areas. These areas include the fringes of Tombigbee Electrics service territory and some areas beyond. We have not yet received any of those funds. We have only as of January 27, 2022, been tentatively approved for the funding after submitting all of the grant documentation. Upon receipt of the first RDOF funds, we will have a time period to complete construction to those areas. Our existing plans will more than meet the required RDOF time criteria. We are in the planning phase for each of these areas at this time.
Why don’t you meet the timeline goals you publish for my individual address? (Something like “you said six months ago it would be six months.”) We have 4,000 miles of fiber to build. That is approximately the distance from Mississippi to Hawaii or to England. The build is not a straight line. It is indeed a spider-web. It consists of designing our network, refining the design, studying the poles and locations in the field, making changes to them to allow for safe reliable service, building the strand, building the mainline fiber, building the huts, activating the huts, splicing 1,000’s of fibers, testing the system, correcting any issues and then making an area at a time available. We are accomplishing this with over 200 workers each day. Weather, sickness, supplies, permitting, contractor availability, access to property, wet conditions and many other variables can impact timing of a project. The timelines you get when you search your address on our website are estimates. We do our best to meet them and to update them as things change. Overall, the project is currently on schedule. We apologize for any individual delays. The mass and scale of this undertaking is tremendous. Rest assured, we will get to each of you as soon as we can!
We appreciate your patience and look forward to serving you. You can find out more specific information for your address on TombigbeeFiber.com.
Tombigbee Fiber, LLC
Scott R. Hendrix, CEO