By Ashley Spinks, Communications Coordinator, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association
March 6, 2018
This summer, greater access to fiber broadband is coming to Conway, S.C., and surrounding areas. Horry Telephone Cooperative, an NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association member company, announced recently that it will be retiring some of its copper-based infrastructure—used primarily for landline phones—and replacing it with fiber.
“Age and competitive environment have been the drivers in HTC decision-making,” according to HTC Director of Marketing Tom Vitt. “HTC was aware that a fast-growing segment of our network had primarily copper facilities and if we wanted to expand our market share, we [needed] to have the network that could provide competitive services.”
HTC, which serves nearly 70,000 homes and businesses with broadband, began its fiber buildout in 2006, and this newest phase of the project will bring the possibility of fiber connections to thousands of residences throughout Conway, Murrells Inlet and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Until recently, Vitt said, the copper retirement has not been concurrent with any fiber overbuilds. The company has not yet fully retired copper in some densely populated service areas that were overbuilt with fiber and has no immediate plans to replace its hybrid-fiber coaxial cable network—used to provide cable television and high speed data services in a large portion of their footprint—with fiber.
Overbuilding parts of its copper infrastructure with fiber, however, will allow HTC to provide faster internet connections to existing customers, draw in new customers and remain competitive with the speeds of other local providers. The company said in a public release that there will be no lapses in service for members during the transition from copper to fiber, and there will be no changes to rates.
The fiber revolution, so to speak, has taken hold across NTCA’s membership. A survey of NTCA member companies conducted in 2017 found that 41% of respondents’ customers are served via fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), up from 20% in 2013. Furthermore, 82% of survey respondents have a long-term fiber deployment strategy.
Deployment cost remains the most significant barrier to widespread deployment of fiber, according to NTCA member companies surveyed. Other obstacles included regulatory uncertainty, long loops and financing. More positively, 66% of respondents expect to be able to provide FTTH to at least half of their customers by year-end 2019, and another 31% already have completed fiber deployment to all their customers.