Brightspeed looking to close fiber optic loop

Published 11:08 am Thursday, June 22, 2023

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Brightspeed is looking at ways to provide redundant paths for internet service to Hatteras Island.

Brightspeed took over CenturyLink’s local assets Oct. 3, 2022.

On June 5, 2023, Steve Brewer, director of government affairs for Brightspeed, updated Dare County’s commissioners with information about reducing public safety outages when fiber optic cable is damaged on Hatteras Island.

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For Hatteras Island, one fiber optic cable runs the length of the island carrying internet and phone service, including 9-1-1 operation. That cable runs along the oceanside of NC 12 through very vulnerable locations in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Service challenges on Hatteras Island include cable exposure by storms and cleanup afterwards.

To provide continuous service despite damaged cable, Brewer said the fiber cable loop needs to close. Right now, the cable runs down Hatteras Island and then underwater to Ocracoke. The cable does not connect to the mainland.

To close this loop, Brightspeed has applied for $13 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The submarine cable would run from Ocracoke to the mainland. Cedar Island is mentioned. Brewer also indicated that the fiber cable running from Hatteras to Ocracoke would be upgraded.

The company is also looking at resurrecting microwave towers. The towers would provide voice traffic, including 9-1-1 operation. Cost estimates have been delayed by nesting ospreys on Brightspeed towers, said Brewer.

Commissioner Jim Tobin told Brewer that phone service is “horrible” in Manns Harbor. “Bring in some broadband,” said Tobin.

The commissioners also raised questions about service in Stumpy Point and Wanchese. Apparently, in delivering cable service to Wanchese, Brightspeed skipped Skyco. One of the technical people accompanying Brewer said fiber exists to Skyco, but “it’s not lit.”

In opening remarks, Brewer said since the Brightspeed takeover, mean time to repair has seen a 32% improvement and mean time to install, a 20% improvement.