Fiber optic internet effort comes up short, but is far from over
Committee chair says it came down to residents having past bad experiences with CenturyLink
By John Mullen
The effort to get CenturyLink to provide fiber optic internet connections to Orange Beach residents may have fallen short but the effort is far from over.
Councilman Jerry Johnson, chair of the city’s Telecommunications and Technology Committee said and other members of the panel are already working on another provider in the drive for fiber optic.
“We’re not giving up on bringing fiber internet to the residents of this city,” Johnson said. “We don’t consider this a failure it’s just one of the setbacks that you go through and we will continue to we find a solution.”
Orange Beach partnered with CenturyLink on the effort beginning in August of 2017. The city put up a good-faith amount of $1 million to let the company know it was serious about the effort.
“It’s not putting $1 million into the project, it’s just a good-faith initiative to say the city is with them for the entire project,” Johnson said at the time.
CenturyLink came up with a threshold of having 1,000 people sign up with quotas for certain neighborhoods and pay $25 for a reservation with a deadline of July 31.
“We had somebody working fulltime for the last several months going to condos and door to door and just trying to get one neighborhood to the threshold to where we could start installing would be some momentum,” Johnson said. “We could not get one neighborhood even close.”
It came down residents who had past bad experiences with CenturyLink, Johnson said.
“The product itself is good and most of the residents agreed with that,” Johnson said. “But CenturyLink’s reputation, they don’t trust CenturyLink and they really don’t have any confidence it will be delivered as they said. When you have a company like that it’s hard to move forward. The Telecommunications Committee has agreed.”
Johnson said the city worked hard and held up its end of the agreement.
Orange Beach, Alabama logo.“Orange Beach’s part of that partnership, we exceeded,” Johnson said. “We did everything we possibly could do. CenturyLink really didn’t bring anything to the table once they agreed to do that we never saw ‘em. And there’s just a lot of issues there.”
The next move, Johnson said, is moving forward with another company that is willing to look at partnering with the city on fiber internet.
“The good news is there’s another company in Tuscaloosa that is very interested in something similar,” he said. “So we’ll be talking to them in September to see what they’re bringing to the table.”
And, if that’s not the solution Johnson said he and the committee will look for other options.
“We’re not giving up on bringing fiber internet to the residents of this city,” he said. “We don’t consider this a failure it’s just one of the setbacks that you go through and we will continue to we find a solution. We’re at the cusp. I think we can make it happen and we’re going to keep on until we can find the right fit.”
Johnson said CenturyLink will start mailing checks to the people who signed up in August and that the company accepted the fact people didn’t have confidence in the company.
“CenturyLink knows we want the $25 reservation fee refunded as soon as possible,” he said. “You should be getting checks in the mail from them. They agreed and they didn’t argue with our thinking and the residents’ comments.”
During the work session the council discussed:
• Giving eminent domain to Al Lutke who owns the property directly west of the newly acquired Goodwyn property. He is requesting a 30-foot right-of-way through the property which is north of Burklowski Lane and west of Roscoe Road.
• A resolution to award a bid for the city’s debris monitoring, disaster management, and recovery services contract. Bids will be opened on July 19.
• A resolution to award a bid for a drone for the police department. Bids will be opened on July 26.