Monthly Fiber Update: January

Happy New Year San Juan County!

It’s time for another Monthly Fiber Update. This email series will help answer some of the most common questions we receive about our fiber initiative. We‘ll continue to send out information like this every month to keep you up to date on the project, and let you know how to get involved if you choose to do so.

If you missed prior editions, you can read them here. If you prefer not to receive these updates, simply click the “unsubscribe from this list” link at the bottom of this email.

It’s a new year and your Rock Island team is already off and running in a neighborhood in or near you. Demand for fiber has been very strong for fiber service, and continues to be in 2016. 

Current Group Projects:
Matia View on Orcas Island
Morning Light on Orcas Island
Suncrest on Orcas Island
Whiskey Hill on Lopez Island
Elderberry on Orcas Island
Spring Point on Orcas Island

Upcoming Group Projects:
LCLT Tuatara Rd on Lopez Island
Brown Island on Brown Island
Salmon Point on Lopez Island
Cape San Juan Part 2 on San Juan Island
Harney View on Orcas Island
Cayou Valley on Orcas Island
Panorama Place on San Juan Island
Gary Oak on San Juan Island
Portland Fair Area on San Juan Island

Completed Group Projects!
Alder Cottages on Orcas Island
Alder Forest on Orcas Island
Eagle Lake on Orcas Island
Seattle Pacific University on Blakely Island
Mineral Heights on San Juan Island
Mineral Point on San Juan Island
The Highlands on San Juan Island
Cape San Juan Part 1 on San Juan Island

There are hundreds of fiber connections under development now and months worth of work for our crews lined out ahead of us and we’re excited! Thanks to our Fiber Group Organizers (FGOs), homeowners, our employees and contractors, our county agencies and everyone in between who helps us get our jobs done every day. We couldn’t do this without you.

A lot of people have been asking us lately about the specifics around building out an infrastructure like this, and so we thought we would start the year off by answering that very question. Below is an outline of the milestones and phases we go through during a fiber build. Enjoy!

What does it take to build a fiber-optic infrastructure?

The key concept to understand about getting fiber-optic broadband is that it is a major utility construction effort involving excavation and Rock Island utility crews. There are three main components to building out our fiber-optic infrastructure:

  1. Backbone – the main fiber line installed by OPALCO
  2. Middle Mile – the shared fiber that connects multiple properties to the fiber backbone
  3. Last Mile – the fiber that connects individual homes to the middle mile

Rock Island is working with neighborhood associations and other “fiber groups” across the county to connect folks to OPALCO’s fiber backbone. There are two primary phases to this build out.

1 – Middle Mile Fiber-Optic Construction

Rock Island works closely with organized fiber groups to understand their unique needs and to devise a middle mile installation plan and cost estimates. Upon final design agreement and funding, Rock Island schedules installation with trusted contractors.

The time it takes to build out your middle mile depends upon many variables, such as length, topography, and existing infrastructure. Most middle mile builds range from one to four months and consist of the following phases:

  1. Engineering and Preparation: Rock Island engineers work with contractors to understand the terrain and locate infrastructure and existing utilities, such as phone, electrical, and water. The end result is an engineered plan that contractors use to install the middle mile.
  2. Digging and Conduit: Using special equipment, installers dig trenches and lay conduit (the pipe that houses the fiber) to a depth of 18”. During this phase, fiber vaults and other equipment are also installed.
  3. Fiber Installation: Once the conduit goes in the ground, fiber-optic cable is installed inside the conduit.
  4. Fiber Splicing: The final step in middle mile installation is to splice the fiber – basically, connecting all parts of your middle mile to the fiber backbone.

2 – Last Mile Fiber-Optic Construction

Rock Island coordinates last mile installations directly with property owners. As the property owner, you control this process and we design and install the last mile based on your unique needs. Because each home and property are different, we start from the inside out to see how you are using your equipment and then work backwards to your connection at the middle mile. Here’s how the process works:

  1. Network Design: Rock Island schedules a 30-60 minute last mile design appointment with you to determine the best place to enter your home with our service based on your individual needs.
  2. Excavation Design: For this appointment, a Rock Island contractor creates an excavation design from your home to your nearest middle mile connection point.
  3. Paperwork (Welcome Packet): Once the contractor submits your excavation design estimate to Rock Island, we generate a work order and related paperwork which includes:
    1. A service order with your last mile cost estimate
    2. An easement for you to sign so we can work on your property
    3. A customer information form with your fiber rate plan selection, phone options, and incentive election
  4. Last Mile Construction: Once your paperwork is complete and payment has been received, Rock Island can schedule and begin your last mile, which includes digging, laying conduit, and installing fiber between the middle mile connection point and your home.
  5. Home Installation: The next steps include setting a junction box on your home, jetting and splicing your fibers on both ends, and performing any interior build-out needed inside your home.
  6. Service Activation: For this final step, we schedule a technician to visit your home to activate your service. We’ll bring your fiber modem and connect you to the Internet. At this time, we test your connection, connect one of your computers, and show you how to access the modem’s wireless network. If you need any additional network support, we can schedule a time to have a network technician come to your home to help you with your needs on a time and material basis.

Is Rock Island is still hiring?

Yes we are! We’re currently looking for people with experience and a great attitude to help join us in our mission. Drop us a line if you think that your skills and experience could be helpful.

We are currently taking applications for:

  • Field Technicians (Orcas and San Juan)
  • Retail Salespeople (Orcas and San Juan)
  • Tech Support Agents (San Juan)
  • Network Engineers (San Juan)

If you or someone you know wants to join a thriving technology company making a huge difference in San Juan County, drop us a line at: [email protected].

Monthly open meetings continue; Orcas Island in January

We started hosting monthly fiber meet-ups last September to open up a longer format, face-to-face dialog with the community about our project. Meetings will rotate every month from island to island. We will announce upcoming meetings and locations here, and in our local papers. Be sure to attend at least one of these meetings if you’re interested in learning more. We will be happy to receive you.

Please join us at the Rock Island office on Orcas this month. All are welcome and there is no cost to entry.

Here are the details:

Location: Rock Island Communications
Date: January 13th
Time: 5:30 – 7:00 pm
Address: 208 Enchanted Forest Rd., Suite D, Eastsound, WA 98245
Phone: (360) 378-5884

We will return in February with the next edition of our monthly fiber update. In the meantime, we are making progress every day around the county. Thank you for your time and patience and, most importantly, your support.

All our best,

The Rock Island Team