By Scott Nixon, Times-Advocate staff
SOUTH HURON — Hay Communications is planning a major expansion to bring fibre optic service to Exeter for Internet, phone and digital TV services.
General manager Angela Schneider spoke at South Huron council’s Nov. 19 meeting seeking council’s blessing to go forward with the construction of the underground fibre optic project, which she estimated will cost in excess of $6 million and take about a year to complete.
Construction will be done in phases, starting in the spring.
Schneider said the project would extend fibre optics to every home in Exeter and said having fibre optics in the town would make Exeter the envy of many larger municipalities.
Schneider explained to the Times-Advocate that Hay would make provisions for every home and building in Exeter to have fibre service and customers would then have the option of subscribing with Hay.
She said it makes things easier for Hay if they can get as many subscribers on their first pass through town, “but it certainly is up to the homeowner.”
Schneider said the new project gives customers an option in service providers.
“I think anytime you have an option as a consumer, you have more power. Obviously we’re hoping to win some consumers over through both higher quality service, competitive prices and better local provisioning of services.”
According to a press release from Hay Communications, “With the entire town fed by fibre, Exeter will become part of that elite group surpassing the likes of Toronto or London for bandwidth capacity and technology upgradeability.”
The release further states that, “Fibre optic strands carry data signals such as Internet, phone, digital TV and security through a strand no larger around than a human hair. There is no bandwidth need that cannot be met with a fibre strand to a home, business or public institution.”
Schneider said fibre optic allows unlimited bandwidth and the new project sets up Exeter and its residents for whatever bandwidth needs develop in the future. She said the industry standard estimate is that bandwidth demands double annually.
Schneider said the project, which will be done in six phases using underground directional drilling, will be important for the growth of Hay Communications and South Huron.
She said the company wants to ensure construction has the least impact possible to the municipality and its residents.
Schneider added a study has shown properties can improve their value by $5,000 with fibre optic service.
Coun. Dennis Hockey called the project “exciting,” while Coun. Bill Francis noted Grand Cove has fibre optics and “it’s been fantastic,” with great Internet speed and great-looking television.
South Huron Chief administrative officer Roy Hardy said the municipality has had preliminary meetings with Hay Communications. Council gave staff its blessing to move ahead with Hay on developing agreements to allow the company to put cable and boxes on some municipal rights of way.
Hay already provides fibre optic service to South Huron Hospital and to businesses in Exeter along Thames Road. Schneider said the company has been seriously thinking of its new Exeter project for about the last five years.
“It’s a significant investment for us,” she said. “We’re excited to have the opportunity.”
Hay Communications has 24 full-time employees and has been in business for more than 100 years. Based in Zurich, the business will open a customer activation centre in Exeter before construction on the new fibre optic project starts.