River crossing permit clears hurdle; fiber-optic company customers could be online within a month.
By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — The company that promised super-speed fiber optic Internet to the community has been waiting for months on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve a permit to cross the Neuse River.
RST Fiber Optics is getting that permit pronto, a Corps official promised Tuesday.
“Easements and licenses go through our real estate office. I have talked with our realty specialist in Wilmington,” said Carol Banaitis, the Army Corps’ operations manager at Falls Lake. “He actually has that easement (permit) for RST and he is sending it to our main real estate office in Savannah. It’s going through, it’s not a problem.”
She said she expects the permit to be in RST officials’ hands within a week.
“Our easements and licenses take a while. There’s an environmental aspect. Also, there’s a matter of getting legal wording correct on all documents,” she added. “We’re moving it as quickly as we can. I’m sure Wake Forest is looking forward to it.”
The Corps built and maintains Falls Lake and owns much of the land around the lake and down the Neuse.
RST has made arrangements to run 300 feet of the cabling across the river using Duke Progress Energy’s utility poles, said Dan Holt, who is acting as RST’s representative for the Wake Forest fiber optic network initiative.
The remainder of the cable will run underground along old Falls of Neuse Road and east on Durham Road, connecting to downtown Wake Forest, where RST is in the process of installing a network hub.
The sheathing for the cable has already been laid on both sides of the river. Once the river crossing is made, the fiber optic cable itself will be quickly pulled through the sheathing and hooked up to the hub.
RST wowed the Wake Forest community with its plan to bring gigabit upload and download Internet speed to any local neighborhood where a majority of residents sign up in advance for the service.
By comparison, other Internet service providers generally offer anywhere from 5 to 40 megabits per second, Holt said.
At best, that’s still less than 1/20th of RST’s expected speed. The Shelby-based company has the infrastructure in place in Raleigh and the connection over the river will allow it to use Wake Forest as a test market for the new service.
Half of Crenshaw Manor has been connected; the work was halted while they awaited the permit, said Holt. There are interested customers in Crenshaw Hall Planation and Waterfall Plantation, along with more than 2,000 residents scattered throughout the town.
“We have an interest in Heritage,” added Holt. “There’s lots of demand there.”
As good as Google
Holt isn’t an RST employee. He is actually a supervisor with Wake Forest tech company 3Phoenix, but agreed to act on RST’s behalf while the network is established.
It was Holt, after all, who got the ball rolling. After some trouble with a local Internet provider, he created the Fiber to the Forest initiative, a grassroots effort to bring high-speed fiber optic service to his adopted hometown of Wake Forest.
He’s also not associated with the town of Wake Forest, though town leaders created a commission to further the movement’s effort.
RST President Dan Limerick was impressed with the town’s enthusiasm, as well as the ability to use town electric poles and lines to run fiber to the home, where needed.
“Fiber to the Forest started with a slogan,” Holt said, “I just got tired of the, maybe it’s small town syndrome. Small towns don’t get the latest and greatest of anything.”
Fiber optic cable uses light traveling along fibers, instead of metal wires, leading to reduced data loss and no electronic interference.
Hearing about Google Fiber and other providers’ fiber to the home initiatives around the country that target specific neighborhoods and communities, Holt decided to solicit input online to make the same thing happen here.
“I thought, I saw this stuff going on in Kansas City and Austin and thought, we’re a bedroom community, for RTP, there’s a very high-tech community here,” he said. “They would love to come home to this sort of technology. I knew the population would be receptive.”
To follow updates on RST’s progress, or see the plans RST is offering, see Holt’s website at wakeforestfiber.com.