Loading: High speed internet options expand in Jemison and county

Published 9:54 am Friday, June 17, 2022

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By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

Businesses in and around Jemison that have struggled to process sales because of internet outages in the past year now have a new option to choose from in Uniti Fiber.

Options for residential customers in other areas of Chilton County are also expanding through Central Access.

Uniti Fiber chose Jemison as an area to serve because it was along a route it was building connecting Montgomery and Birmingham.

Joe McCourt, Uniti Fiber senior vice president of enterprise operations, said the company saw an opportunity because the area had businesses with a need for reliable, high-speed internet without many choices.

A few local businesses are already on board as customers.

“We only serve business customers,” McCourt said. “Now, we have instances where we will work with third party partners at a whole sale level that will buy our services. Like a wireless internet provider will buy an internet feed from us, and then they will distribute to residential customers.”

This could be a company that was already in the area, but did not have fiber, or a new company coming to the area. Whether a third-party company will partner with Uniti in Jemison to provide residential internet is unknown at this time.

Expanding in the county and possibly serving Clanton has been discussed. McCourt said it depends on the number of businesses interested in service and their proximity to the existing network.

“It’s a math problem for us,” McCourt said. “If we can make it work, we want to make it work.”

Many Chilton County residents now have the ability to sign up for high-speed internet at home through Central Access as it expands beyond its initial core fiber project.

There are currently 2,500 Central Access customers in Chilton County. However, Central Access reports that an additional 4,000 homes are within areas that are served by the fiber system, but they have not signed up for service.

The service is already available in sections of Maplesville, several areas of the county between Clanton and Maplesville, sections of Clanton, portions of Verbena near Interstate Exit 200 and several unincorporated areas of the county. A map can be viewed and specific addresses can be looked up at centralaccess.com.

“From grant zones to zones requiring activation, we’re excited about the expansion into Chilton County,” said Chris Montgomery, vice president of Central Access. “Our expectation is that nearly all CAEC (Central Alabama Electric Cooperative) members in our electric service territory in Chilton County will have fiber by the end of the year.”

The service is also available to some who are not CAEC power customers.

Construction has begun on the areas being funded through USDA grants. Estimates are that this will add eligibility for another 2,400 homes.

Both Central Access and Uniti Fiber offer symmetrical service, meaning the same speed is offered for both uploading and downloading. Some other companies only offer different speeds for uploading and downloading.

Unit Fiber’s available speeds range from 25 MBPS to 100 GBPS. McCourt said the company talks to businesses about what speeds and other services it provides, such as voice and router management including adding a secondary backup internet source, that would best meet their needs.

Central Access offers speeds of 200 MBPS to 1 GBPS.

“Regardless of whether you’re a CAEC member or not, we know that reliable internet is a necessity for today’s families,” said Montgomery. “As we complete our initial construction plans, we are excited about the possibilities to provide our service to anyone in our region who wishes to have it.”

Central Access is the internet service provider branch of Central Alabama Electric Cooperative. Construction on its fiber network began in Verbena in 2019.

Uniti Fiber started in 2015 and acquired other companies to expand into the 128,000 miles of fiber network throughout the country that it is today.

McCourt said the company still has a focus of serving companies directly.

“We don’t send you to a call center overseas,” McCourt said. “If you have an issue, we take care of it ourselves, which is great.”

The network operations center for Uniti in Mobile is accessible 24/7.

Businesses interested in Uniti Fiber can contact area manager Philip Durant at 251-689-0100 or philip.durant@uniti.com

Information about signing up for service with Central Access is available at centralaccess.com.