By Brad Essenmacher, TEC Broadband Manager
As I write this, it is the beginning of December, and the snow is starting to fly. The good news is that contractors are currently on TEC property installing fiber optic cable and the equipment that goes with it. If you’ve noticed trucks with LeCom written on the side of them, they belong to our mainline fiber construction contractor. Through LeCom, the underground portion of the project is being done by Yukon. They will be performing the portion of the project outside of TEC’s footprint where the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) requirement needs to be met in DTE-served areas. The pilot area we began earlier this year is nearly finished, and we are days away from “lighting” it up and providing members service from it. We are able to do this because of our recent acquisition of Air Advantage (AA).
By now, many of you have heard the announcement, but may not know why the acquisition was made. There are many reasons that the acquisition of AA made sense, but three stand out as immediate benefits:
- Along with 140 wireless tower sites, AA also owns/operates over 600 miles of an existing fiber optic cable network. That existing network does a few things for TEC. It immediately lowers our infrastructure construction costs. In the short term, we do not have the need to build “Head End” electronics of our own from scratch. AA already owns and operates this equipment. Because AA already has fiber in place here, TEC will avoid building many miles of duplicate fiber cable paths, reducing construction costs. This acquisition also gives us a reliable path out of the Thumb area. AA already has those paths to connect with the outside world in main hubs such as Chicago and Southfield, Michigan.
- The most important reason for this acquisition is the employees AA brings with them to the table. There is
a huge wealth of knowledge internally that takes years to develop as an internet service provider (ISP), which TEC did not yet have. From technical network skills, office staff, sales, home install, and outside build, AA brings that knowledge immediately, which is a major plus as we embark on the future of being an ISP.
- AA currently has over 5,500 internet customers on both the fiber and wireless spectrums. This gives TEC an immediate stream of revenue as we build out our fiber network. That improves our financial position enough that it allows us to accelerate our build timeline in a responsible manner, which makes it possible to get to you more quickly.
Some have speculated that it takes our project from fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) to a wireless system, but that is not true. Our commitment to our members and the requirement to RDOF is to build a FTTH network, which is what we will do. There is, however, still a place for wireless technology, as not all areas were included in RDOF or were won by having less than fiber technology (such as DSL, cable, or wireless) in RDOF. This will allow us to serve those households as well.
As we get closer to onboarding internet customers, which I hope is happening as you read this, keep a close eye on our Facebook page, Instagram, and our website for further details. We will be introducing a product called CrowdFiber, which will allow members and non-members to check for service availability, pre-register, and check on build status in your area. As we enter 2022, we are confident we will be providing the best internet service in the Thumb and surrounding areas. With TEC Fiber and Air Advantage, we strive to show you the “TEC Advantage.”