Fellow Tombigbee Members:
I wanted to take this opportunity to attempt to answer some recurring questions about our fiber project and to give everyone an update on its status.
What is the current status of the project?
To date, we have built over 1,300 miles of fiber. We now actively offer fiber service to 15,000 homes and businesses out of our 44,400 members. We have approximately 2,700 miles left to build. The build plans remain the same as we have previously publicized consisting of three phases. Please see the attached phase maps. Phase 2 began construction on time in June of 2021. Phase 1 is 90% plus complete with a few small areas that are exceptions caused by delays with permitting and materials. Those areas continue to be worked on and will open as soon as possible. We have approximately 200 people working seven days a week to build the network and install customers.
WHY HAVE CERTAIN AREAS BEEN BUILT IN THE ORDER THEY HAVE?
The project had to start at a location where we could obtain access to the internet. For us, those locations are central to our system. Accordingly, the build started in those areas and is working its way outward by substation in a rough circular pattern. The only variation to this was an area deemed unserved by the State of Mississippi under the Cares Act. As a result of building that area (the northwest corner of our system near Guntown) Tombigbee obtained a $4,600,000 grant, which had to be matched dollar for dollar by Tombigbee. As a condition of the grant, the primary construction of that area had to be complete by December of 2020. As a result of this and our normal build schedule, we serve approximately 50% unserved and underserved rural areas compared to other more populated areas. The more populated areas are closer to our delivery points and form the inner rings of our overall project. As the spider web of our network grows we serve each substation area we touch. Certainly, the density of those more populated areas promise more customers to aid in recovering the costs of this project. However, those customers are Tombigbee member electric customers and equally in need and deserving of service. As a condition for state law allowing Tombigbee to be in this business, we are required to plan to serve or be able to serve all Tombigbee electric members. Thus our plan has never been to build to any one area over another, unserved over served, rural over urban, sparce over dense. Our plan has always been to build to all of our members in the best and fastest manner possible. Rest assured, we will get to all areas as soon as we can, to bring your fiber to you!
WHEN WILL YOU GET TO MY AREA?
If you are in the areas set forth in Phase 1 on the maps, you are likely on at this time with service available. If not, you will be very soon as many of the obstacles for those smaller areas remaining in Phase 1 have now been overcome. If you are in Phase 2, construction is underway for those areas working from the northern end of that Phase outward. We will open each small area as soon as we can once complete, with Phase 2 finalizing in June of 2022. Phase 3 is planned to begin construction in June of 2022 continuing through June of 2023. We attempt to adjust the information on the online portals to reflect progress. However, the times displayed on the same are just estimates until an area moves toward actually being open for sign up and ready for service, at which time it is more regularly updated. We will get to you as soon as we can. We will get to everyone that has Tombigbee electric power. Lastly, we have applied for and will receive some additional grant monies that will expand our build off of our system. Those areas are planned to be built after Phase 3. That grant program, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), requires completion over certain time periods of with which our plans will comply. We have not received any of these grant monies as of yet although they have been awarded.
FIBER IS NEAR MY HOME, WHY CAN’T YOU GET IT TO ME?
Our system design is to build following our electric power routes. This organizational structure helps make the project more affordable from a construction standpoint and helps us in the design, planning and implementation phases of the build. We plan all customers in an electric feeder by various fiber maps, making sure capacity is there to give you the service you are needing and wanting. Also, the hut and network design to accomplish the same are part of the design process based on these locations and maps. Each fiber line traces its way back to our substations in the same path as which you have been wired for electric service. We do our best not to vary from this design or structure. Accordingly, there will be places where we may turn on areas near you, but you may feed from another direction or fiber hut in another substation. That is why some areas are served near you, but you may not yet have service at the same time. It is not a simple or inexpensive process to vary from this plan. Please bear with us, we are working to turn on everyone as fast as we can.
ARE THE BUILD AREAS SELECTED WITH A GOAL TO POPULATED AREAS?
Tombigbee Fiber, LLC is an affiliate of Tombigbee Electric Power Association, which operates on a cooperative basis. We are here to serve all of our members. As stated above, state law requires a plan to all members. Neither population nor profit are the motive in planning the build. If so, many of our areas would never have been built. That is the reason the private or investor owned internet providers have not built to many of us in the past. Tombigbee Fiber’s goal is to have the broadband network system pay for itself over a reasonable time period while serving all members. In doing so we will bring your fiber to you in areas where no one else would, your fiber to all of the members of Tombigbee Electric Power Association. Areas being built first were selected by criteria that met the overall design, with the primary factor originally being the location of the substation compared to the availability of an internet connection. Population and whether the area was served or unserved was a secondary consideration among other factors. Our plan is and has always been to build to all of our areas. We have worked to balance these considerations in making our overall construction and design plans.
We understand that each of you want our service immediately. If anything, the past two years has shown us the necessity of good broadband connectivity. We hope that this information helps you understand the process we are going through to build to you as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience and look forward to your patronage. You can find out more specific information for your address and actually sign up where service is available on Tombigbeefiber.com. We are committed to continue a strong steady pace to bring your fiber to you!
Tombigbee Electric Power Association
Tombigbee Fiber, LLC
Scott R. Hendrix, CEO