Hayneville Telephone prepares to break ground on fiber installation

Published 9:58 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2024

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In 1946, Howard and Jesse Powell acquired Hayneville Telephone Company (HTC) with the purchase of a home on East Tuskeena Street, which came with the operation’s switchboard and 50 customers. The couple retained the business, providing telephone services to the market no other provider wanted to take on, and today, the company is preparing to bring fiber optic services to portions of Lowndes County.

Evelyn Causey, the Powells’ granddaughter, is HTC President and COO, overseeing operations which include the fiber project funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant through the Rural Utilities Services (RUS) ReConnect Program. The project, she said, is in the final stages of approval by RUS and has been a labor of love to bring from inception to fruition.

“The initial perception was that we were getting what ended up being $27.5 million and that it was instantaneous,” Causey said. “The expectations were that we were going to be there ‘tomorrow’ with fiber, and that is unfortunately not the case.”

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Causey explained that, like a duck treading water, the process has involved a lot of work behind the scenes — environmental and historical reviews, plan and specification approval, tribal plan review — which have taken months to complete before final federal approval.

“There has been a tremendous amount of slowdown in progress because of all the hands [the project] has to go through for the approval process,” Causey said. “But we are making progress.”

And, while it is still too soon to project a date for breaking ground, Causey said she hopes to kickoff construction in the next few months.

“We hope that we can see some construction as early as July,” she said. “We will request bids after we get approval. Once the bids come in we will select the vendor of choice and then they have 30 days to get started.

“Once we break ground, we will have a much better idea of a timeline. Our hope is that we’re going to get multiple crews working consecutively so that we can accomplish a lot in a little bit of time.”

Robbie Till, HTC engineering and GIS coordinator, has been working to navigate the project through approvals. Once construction begins, he said, areas will receive access to fiber services in four phases.

“Phase 1 is over 100 miles,” Till said, pointing out that Phase 1 includes the northeast section of Lowndes County, the first and largest phase of the project serving 880 customers. Each phase will see completion in numerical order until Phase 4 is finished, and everyone phase areas have access to fiber service.

“The fiber will run along major routes with some little areas that branch out from there,” Till said. “From those routes we will have drops that actually go out into the homes.”

Once installed, the fiber will provide internet service at speeds of one gigabyte. Unlike fixed wireless solutions, which rely on available air signals from fiber to homes or businesses, it is available regardless of weather or landscape conditions.

“Fixed wireless is a different product, different technology,” said HTC General Manager Mason Halacker. “It is limited in terms of capacity and consistency because any time you go through the air, you get what is called terrestrial interference.”

To keep customers and potential customers informed, HTC will be sending out regular updates through an email campaign. Coordinating that effort is Kayleigh Broderway, who encourages the community to connect with her office, update mailing addresses and provide an email address for update distribution.

“Trust with our customers and potential customers is very important to us, and we want to maintain open and transparent communications,” Broderway said. “Due to the difficulty of mailing updates to customers without a return address, we plan to have an email campaign with customers who would like to receive consistent updates regarding our milestones and even our challenges. 

“We would love to update customers via email, bill inserts and social media on a regular basis. Working in phases will allow us to do weekly, if not daily, updates on Facebook. We will be providing updates about where our crews will be working as well as pictures.”

For more information or to update contact information, call (334) 371-3000.