Broadband project 2012.09.26

Written by David Green.

TDS cableBy DAVID GREEN

Construction continues south and southeast of Clayton in a project that will bring high-speed internet service to unserved households.

Communication Corporation of Michigan (CCM), a subsidiary of TDS Telecommunications, received a Rural Utilities Service grant of $1.2 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, part of an effort to expand broadband service in many areas of the country. TDS will add $400,000 to the project cost for work near Clayton and Augusta, Mich. In total, about 300 households will gain broadband service.

Engineering consultant Jeff Wells said Thursday, the eighth day of the project, that a construction crew first began boring south from the Clayton office toward M-34. A cable-burying plow is used in most areas, while a smaller directional boring machine is used in tough terrain or in areas with other buried utilities.

At this stage of the project, an inner duct was laid nearly four feet underground, along with an orange warning ribbon positioned about a foot above the duct. Later, when all duct work is complete, communications cable—either copper or fiber—will be placed inside.

Last week one crew was making its way north on M-156 from Medina Road—the southern boundary of the project—while another crew worked to the east along M-34. In total, about 7.5 miles of cable will be laid in the Clayton area.

TDS serves residents in Clayton and areas north, west and southwest that already have access to cable television service. Federal grant guidelines prohibit those areas from being part of a federal “stimulus funds” project.

The further a signal travels from its source in the central office, the weaker it becomes. Wells said the project will reduce the effects of the signal drop by including five, small “wire centers” on concrete pads that shorten the length of cable through which the signal passes. The project also includes upgrades to the central office in Clayton.

Some residents along M-34 will have the option for a fiber connection—the fastest speed available—but even those served by a copper wire should see a vast improvement over their existing service, Wells said.

CCM was awarded the funds about two years ago, but completion of the project is a lengthy process due to the many steps involved, including engineering, environmental studies and seeking bids.

The contracting firm—R. Roese Contracting of Kawkawlin—has 45 days to complete its job. Once the connections in the wire centers are complete, the system will be powered up and allowed to "cook" for a while to make sure it’s operating correctly.

“It should be fully functional by the summer of 2013,” Wells said, if not a little earlier.

Wells knows that not everyone supports the federal stimulus projects, but he says TDS believes that developing internet infrastructure is important to the nation and a smart investment. Besides that, it’s funding a lot of jobs that, in turn, spread dollars to local businesses in the area.

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