(TNS) — Fiber-optic cables are being installed all across Manchester as part of an effort by Consolidated Communications to bring faster Internet access to the state’s largest city.Construction started several months ago to build the new fiber-optic network. The multi-gigabit symmetrical Internet service — which has the same upload and download times — is expected to be available for about 65,000 households in Manchester by mid-next year.Other projects are happening in other areas of the state including Bedford, Derry, Exeter and Goffstown. Nearly 100 towns in New Hampshire are expected to receive the upgrades in the next five years.
He called fiber — or hair-thin pieces of glass strung together — a “future-proof technology.” Not only does it offer high-speed connection, it is known for its reliability, he said.”Because it’s glass and light it is essentially impervious to rain, wind, storm and all of those things,” Koester said.For $70 a month, Consolidated will offer a gigabit (1,000 megabits)-per-second service for both uploads and downloads.”For anybody that has been on Zooms knows, that is really important,” Koester said. “That upstream feed is just as important as the downstream.”Other options include 50 megabits for $35 and 250 megabits for $60, equipment and installation included. All residential plans feature a one-year price lock with no contract required, according to its website.In Manchester, Comcast’s Xfinity services offer 1.2-gigabit download speeds for $110 a month, according to its website. Pricing usually differs for each customer depending on offerings.Consolidated Communications, which offers service in 23 states, hopes to offer the fiber service to 1.6 million customers, 70%, by 2025. This includes 400,000 locations in New Hampshire, Koester said.Last year, the company announced it secured $58.9 million in funding over 10 years for the work.In the first half of 2021, the company delivered fiber-optic Internet to 122,000 homes in more than 60 towns in California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Texas and Vermont.Dave Hamilton, a Durham resident and host of the Mac Geek Gab podcast, said in a statement the upload speeds are much faster under the service, which is important for his line of work.”Uploading podcasts and video files was always a struggle with cable, but my Consolidated symmetrical fiber connection has made it so much smoother and faster, with noticeably lower latency,” he said.A 2018 law change in New Hampshire has allowed municipalities to bond Internet service upgrades over 20 years, which is paid for with subscribers’ fees. Consolidated has entered into agreement with more than 20 communities, mostly in the Monadnock region.”We work together with municipalities to build fiber to the entire locations,” Koester said. “There are some pretty rural areas.”The first project in Chesterfield started in 2018 and was completed a year later.The company’s goal of reaching 400,000 locations in New Hampshire will require placing 4,000 miles of new fiber-optic cable, Koester said. The company has dozens of crews working in New Hampshire.The fiber service can be installed at individual properties typically within three business days. There are no installation fees.The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the awareness around affordable, reliable broadband, Koester said.The Southwest Region Planning Commission sees the benefits of broadband in the Monadnock Region. The group developed a regional broadband plan around 2015.He said the region stands out with its public/private partnerships with Consolidated.”The main driver for that is the amount of need and how far we’ve fallen behind other areas of the state,” said Henry Underwood, a planner with the organization.High-speed Internet brings reliability to Internet service and helps with economic development, he said. Many residents had been using Internet with speeds of 25 megabits per second or slower.The projects are bringing high-speed Internet to all customers, including areas that might not be as profitable for a private Internet service provider.”All these towns want to see everyone in their town brought up to the same high standard,” he said.New Hampshire Electric Cooperative is working on constructing a fiber-optic network in Sandwich. Engineers and project partners from Conexon started developing plans last month.”This work is being used to support the initial fiber optic network design, which we expect to complete soon,” the company wrote on its website. “Once this work is complete we will begin the survey and design work to prepare the utility poles to accept the new fiber-optic cable.”The project in Manchester is being paid for privately, Koester said. The technology is capable of being even faster.”As time goes on, we’ll be able to scale that up to 10-gigabit symmetrical,” Koester said. Right now, consumer routers do not support such a speed.In Keene, Consolidated hopes to offer fiber service to 16,000 residents by the end of the year. The new network will deliver download speeds nearly 10 times faster and upload speeds nearly 100 times faster than what is currently available.The upgrades across the state make Consolidated more competitive.”It is really fulfilling the need that the governor and others have talked about for high-speed broadband, particularly in light of the pandemic,” Koester said.
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