The Year in Review
January 8, 2018---Progress continues with our Smart Grid build out and we are pleased with, and appreciative of, the interest from our membership for a high-speed fiber internet option.
The design of the network is following our electric grid as we work along electric lines (feeders) extending from individual substations. As explained in previous blogs, our four-step process includes design of the system, make ready labor, mainline construction, fiber drops and ultimately the home or business installation. We are currently working in 14 different substation areas covering a large portion of our service area from Stone City to Hopkinton to Sherrill. Individual feeders are in different phases of the process as we utilize over 70 contractors, with an additional firm joining us on March 1. We have also hired several new employees, working strictly in the fiber side of our business.
A 2017 highlight was the construction of two head-end facilities, one in Dubuque County and one in Jones County. A head-end is a master facility with hardware and software that receives, processes and distributes data signals. The Jones County head-end facilitates a fiber loop, significantly enhancing service reliability.
Another milestone was the launch of VoIP telephone service. VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol, allows use of the broadband internet connection to make and receive telephone calls. With the ability to also have a fax line, this has proven a valuable resource for the members who work from home.
Statistics as of December 31st:
- 3,468 members expressed interest at mvlink.coop
- 1,464 members signed up to take service (within the areas ready for service)
- 689 members are connected and receiving service
- 542 miles of mainline fiber is constructed
- 498 miles are ready for drops and home installs
Connected members are now experiencing up to 1 gigabyte of speed, and enjoying newfound freedom for fast file uploads and downloads and uninterrupted streaming.
Overall, we are happy to see this level of progress, while at the same time recognizing many members are anxiously awaiting their connection. We have no intentions of slowing down and simply ask for your patience as we build a robust and reliable system to meet your internet needs well into the future.
September 1, 2017- MVEC’s Board of Directors voted to move forward with the Smart Grid project in April, 2016 and MVlink was officially launched in August 2016. This past year has been very exciting and busy! In a manner similar to how the Cooperative stepped up 82 years ago to meet the electric needs of our membership it is stepping up today to meet the high speed internet needs of our members. MVlink’s fiber communication network will also greatly increase the amount of data we are able to collect and monitor on the electric distribution system, allowing us to continue providing affordable and reliable power for many years to come.
Design efforts began in the summer of 2016 and construction activity to build out the fiber network officially began on November 4, 2016. There has been a learning curve and lots of training opportunities as we moved into the communications business. Several of our electric employees transitioned to the fiber team and others with experience in the communications field have joined the Cooperative. We currently have 14 Cooperative employees focused on the fiber project, along with approximately 75 contracted employees. The first internet connection was completed on February 23, 2017 and the first voice over internet phone connection was completed on June 8, 2017.
On the electrical side we are currently able to collect smart grid data from our substation equipment and meters, but have no means of communicating with the equipment in between. The fiber network solves that communications problem and allows us to gather data from all areas of our electrical system.
This data will be used to operate the system during outages, help direct maintenance activities, and help us to monitor and regulate the system as more and more distributed generation is connected to the grid in the coming years.
We have completed 360 miles of mainline construction in 16 service areas. 902 members have signed up to take service in these areas. Service drops have been installed at 380 locations and we have just over 305 members connected. Additionally, five of our substations are now connected with fiber and transferring data back to the office much faster, and more reliably. We have accomplished and learned a lot since November 4th of last year and are off to a good start. We are currently working with our contractors to shorten the cycle on getting a mainline area completed and service drops installed so we are able to hook up our excited members at a faster pace.
This map gives you an idea of where we are working throughout our service territory. Phase 1 of our project was in Dubuque County and we are actively installing drops and connecting members to MVlink in the blue shaded areas. The areas shown in yellow represents areas where mainline construction is currently taking place and the purple is for areas where design is currently in progress. Phase 2 of the project began in June in the Anamosa area and we are currently projecting that our first connected member in Jones County will occur in mid-September. The remaining areas of the system will be completed in phases 3 and 4 of the project over the next couple of years.
MVlink internet speeds are significantly faster than what competitors are providing across the majority of our service territory and range from 50 Mbps to 1 Gbps with pricing beginning at $59.95. We have had over 20% of our sign ups take the 100 Mbps package. MVlink can also meet all your wifi needs for an additional $4.95 per month. If you elect to take the wifi service we will provide, install, and configure a wireless router for you and also help connect your devices to make sure you are up and running when we leave. If you should ever have any problems with the MVlink provided wireless router we will also assist with troubleshooting the issues when they occur. To date over 70% of the activated members have elected to take the wifi service. In addition to the internet services, VoIP telephone service can be added to any package for $34.95 per month. We also have business packages available.
We have been very pleased with the interest our members have shown in the project. We are currently signing up members in 15 service areas and we have seen over 30 and 40 percent of our members sign up in several of these service areas. Our MVlink website shows almost 2,800 members have indicated they are interested in signing up for MVlink internet and phone services. Showing your interest on the webpage ensures you will be one of the first members contacted when we start construction in your area and you can officially sign up and begin the process of having a service drop installed. You can let us know you are interested by signing up on this site, where you can also track the progress of our project and learn more about the data and voice packages we offer.
We have made a significant amount of progress since last November. This has been a Cooperative wide effort and has required a significant amount of additional work from many employees to get the project up and running. The interest we have already seen confirms that we are not only meeting the needs of our members today but we will also meet their needs in the future by offering unprecedented internet speeds at very affordable prices.
This picture shows a speed test from one of our very satisfied gigabit families and proves that we are offering internet speeds typically only available in urban areas. It is wonderful to hear members say things like “We have been waiting 12 years for internet service in this area” or “I can finally work from home and not worry about my internet dropping off mid email” or “I’ve been paying hundreds of dollars a month in cellular data charges, this is going to save us tons of money”.
Construction Moving Along
August 3rd, 2017- Interest in MVlink continues to grow! There are currently 15 service areas that are open for sign ups and we are just under 800 member sign ups.
Construction in Phase I in Dubuque County is nearly complete with only two circuits remaining to install fiber. Fiber drops to individual homes are winding down in the early Phase 1 areas so this is a great time to sign up for your free install before we turn our focus to remaining Phase 1 and Phase II service areas. We have connected almost 250 homes in Phase I and they are experiencing the internet at unprecedented speeds, several are on our 100 Mbps and gigabit packages. We have ramped up drop installs in recent weeks which will allow us to increase home installs and connections moving forward.
Construction in Phase II near the Stone City area has also started. Combined with Phase I, we now have 300 miles constructed. A second headend facility (where the fiber originates) is almost complete and it is our intent to connect this facility with the first headend creating a loop for greatest reliability. Members in Phase II will soon start hearing from us as we schedule appointments for home drops and test sites will be operational by the end of the month.
MVlink Smart Grid Progress Map
July 7th, 2017-This ever-changing map of MVEC’s service area depicts the smart grid progress over the past year. The map reflects the various stages of the process from design, to mainline construction, then fiber drops to individual homes/businesses and finally the in-home installation.This ever-changing map of MVEC’s service area depicts the smart grid progress over the past year. The map reflects the various stages of the process from design, to mainline construction, then fiber drops to individual homes/businesses and finally the in-home installation.This ever-changing map of MVEC’s service area depicts the smart grid progress over the past year. The map reflects the various stages of the process from design, to mainline construction, then fiber drops to individual homes/businesses and finally the in-home installation.
May 30th 2017- The Process and Terminology
With over 70 contractors, plus our own staff, we have so many balls in the air and so much new terminology that we find it difficult to share our progress with you.
Step 1—The Design
We have contracted with a firm to design each Phase of our project before we start construction. Design starts with one or more circuits out of a substation (each electric substation has several circuits leading out in different directions to supply all the members in the area). This involves measuring clearance above ground and the distance between poles and then reviewing potential paths to connect the fiber from the mainline to the side of the house, determining where terminal boxes should be located; noting trees that need to be cleared or poles that need to be upgraded and much more. When the design is completed, we will know how much staff time we need to allocate to make our system ready to accommodate the fiber line and what materials are needed to build the fiber in a given area.
Step 2—Make Ready
Upon completion of the design, our MVEC Operations Department will begin tree cutting and clearing, pole replacement and other electric grid improvements to accommodate the new fiber line.
Step 3—Mainline Construction
This is the time-consuming process to bring fiber from pole to pole. Think of this as a highway where each fiber line connects to the network just like a street connects to a highway to take you wherever you need to go. During this step we also need to mark the location of underground lines to help us avoid them during construction.
Step 3---Fiber Drops
When the mainline fiber is completed on a circuit, a new team of contractors will begin extending fiber from the mainline to individual homes or businesses. We refer to this as a ‘drop’. During this step, MVEC staff will contact you to discuss the location of the connection to your home. They will also inquire about any underground facilities you personally own that may be in the path of this proposed drop. We want to avoid things like underground pet fences. Do not cancel your current internet service at this point.
This is the final step in the process where in-home networking equipment is installed. MVEC staff will schedule time with you when a technician can run the fiber from the outside drop inside to your computer. They will then switch internet services from your current connection to the new network, and ensure it is running smoothly with the new higher speed service. At this point you can cancel your former internet service.
Numbers Continue Climbing
May 16, 2017- Our Smart Grid fiber project continues to progress as scheduled. Additional contractor crews are moving in soon and progress will ramp up significantly over the summer months. Check out these statistics that are increasing daily:
- 2201 interested members
- 486 members have signed installation agreements
- 180 miles of fiber consructed
- 78 drops awaiting home installation
- 70+ contractors working in the field
- 30 home installations completed
- 5 new employees hired
- 3 substations now sending smart grid data back to the Cooperative via fiber
Interested? Scroll back to the top and sign up your interest!