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Marion, Peabody left out of fiber

Staff writer

Fiber optic cable installed through the north edge of Marion now provides high-speed connections to residences in Hillsboro, Durham, Lehigh, Canada, and elsewhere along the route.

But it does not include Marion or Peabody.

Marion signed off on a TC Wireless federal grant application so the company could install fiber optic cable through the northern edge of Marion in order to reach Hillsboro.

“Marion reached out to us and we talked to several people,” a company spokeswoman said. “They wanted the service, and we talked to them. That was something we were doing ourselves.

“The important thing is they were interested. They were working with us, so we made this decision to go there.”

Marion discussed fiber with TC, but those discussions didn’t pan out.

“Basically it’s because the carriers we have in town are AT&T and Vyve,” Marion economic development director Randy Collett said. “Vyve will tell you they have broadband available to their network.”

Although Vyve has faster fiber optic connecting some businesses, most of the town is served by somewhat slower coaxial cable that also provides service.

AT&T serves the town primarily with DSL service that uses slower lines also used by wired telephones.

Collett said that regulations list Marion as adequately served by broadband.

“What that does is it effectively closes off some funding options to a carrier that wants to come here and do fiber to the premises,” he said.

Collett said the city had discussed fiber to premises with two other firms, but not with Vyve or AT&T.

TC Wireless might serve Marion in the future, but not right now, a TC Wireless spokeswoman said.

Other cities beyond Hillsboro benefited from the location of the fiber being so close to them.

“A lot of it was just that our transport fiber we were putting in to Hillsboro was close enough,” she said.

Peabody did not make it into TC Wireless’ final grant application because Vyve, which already serves Peabody, objected.

“We are offering well in excess of what would qualify Peabody and Marion for the grant,” vice president Travis Kohlrus said. “The good news for the folks in Peabody is that Vyve Broadband is planning a lot of investments to continue to inflate the broadband service to Peabody.”

Kohlrus said Vyve planned to complete its improvements in Peabody by the end of the year.

Hillsboro city administrator Matt Stiles said installation of broadband fiber to premises in Hillsboro was a project begun before he was hired as administrator.

“In September 2020, TC Wireless came to the city and proposed to do fiber to the premises,” he said.

At one point, the city proposed to issue industrial revenue bonds for the project, but TC Wireless got federal funding. The city spent no money for the installation but did give TC Wireless a 20-by-40-foot building to be the hub of the in-city loop.

“It was about $7 million to do this,” Stiles said. “That probably involves the loop and the city part.”

Stiles said the system was designed so if one fiber line were cut, another would provide service.

Last modified Aug. 25, 2021

 

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