Bellevue residents are soon going to be surfing the web at superfast speeds thanks to Fastwyre Broadband. The fiber optic provider is bringing high-speed internet to the city, Mayor Rusty Hike announced last week at a press conference at Bellevue City Hall.
Hike said Fastwyre’s investment in Bellevue is “a big one.”
“It’s a lot of houses, I think we’re talking 32,000 homes altogether, and as you grow across the country, we’re just glad you included us,” Hike said.
Fastwyre promises internet speeds ranging from 100 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second, with a goal to provide up to 10 gigabits per second in the coming years.
“With the hybrid of the home and office work environments and the online learning, it’s really driven a demand for high-speed internet, and it’s only gonna get to be more of a demand every day as we grow,” Hike said.
Fastwyre began installing optical fiber lines in the city and utility right of way in September, but the installation process has not been without hiccups.
In the Quail Creek neighborhood, residents reported torn-up yards and a gas line being hit by a construction crew. They also complained about the difficulty in reaching someone to make timely repairs. Similar complaints were reported when lines were going in at the Rising View subdivision.
The general contractor in charge of the construction and installation of the network is eX2 Technologies. The company’s chief operating officer Jay Jorgensen addressed the company’s efforts to improve communication with residents over the past few months.
“A few weeks before we come into a neighborhood, a letter will be sent out – I think over 11,000 letters have already been sent out to residents in Bellevue – and then a few days before in a neighborhood, residents should see a door hanger on their door just to let them know, ‘Hey, we’re gonna be in the neighborhood, we’re gonna be going through your yard, potentially there may be some disruption,’” Jorgensen said.
Residents with concerns related to construction can call 1-833-389-0040 to speak with a live operator, Jorgensen said.
Previously, when someone called that number, it went to an automated service. But eX2 switched to live operators about three weeks ago in response to residents’ complaints.
“They should get an immediate answer from somebody, and then a follow-up call if necessary,” Jorgensen said.
Property damage or utility disruption is a small price to pay in the long-term lifespan of optical fibers, Fastwyre chief strategy officer Jim Patterson said.
“This is a construction project, this is a long-term investment that we’re making,” Patterson said. “If you think about the useful life of fiber in the telecom industry, we look at it as a 40 year investment. Think about where you were 40 years ago and what our technology situation was like 40 years ago, and now fast forward to what it’ll look like in even just 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, what it’ll look like, and it’s a much different place, and that’s why we’re making the investment that we’re making, and we’re making that investment for the long run.”
Jorgensen described the construction process eX2 is using to install the network.
“Once we’re in the neighborhood, we take great care to try to have the least amount of destruction,” he said. “The method of construction we use is called directional boring.”
Directional boring involves drilling two endpoints, and the drill digs horizontally between them, about three to four feet beneath the ground, Jorgensen said.
In a letter published on the city’s website, Fastwyre specifically agreed to restore any damage or disturbance caused to the public right-of-way, at its own expense, “to at least the condition immediately prior to such damage or disturbance.”
“When it comes to restoration of the right-of-way, one thing that is important for residents to keep in mind is that Fastwyre must restore the right-of-way to its beginning state and fix any damage caused,” the city stated. “Fastwyre will return and see to it that the grassed/landscaped areas are returned to their beginning state. Any potential damage to sprinkler systems, sidewalks, etc. will be inspected and fixed accordingly.”
Fastwyre is also looking for more pilot customers to beta test the fiber network, Patterson said.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of interest, but we always need more,” he said.
When asked how many more, Patterson said, “hundreds.”
Patterson declined to reveal the current number of pilot customers, saying only that they have been “pleased by the demand that we’ve seen and the interest we’ve seen across the website.”
Once the fiber network is installed, the cost to consumers starts at $39.99 for 100 Mbps and up to $59.99 for 1 Gbps. Customers will also be able to bundle TV and phone service for an additional cost.
Fastwyre Broadband is the business name of American Broadband Holding Company, which is part of Madison Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm. In addition to Nebraska, the network operator offers service in Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas.