Ting Begins to Light Up Sandpoint, Idaho; Sets Its Sights on Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina

Ting Fiber has continued its expansion into two more U.S. metropolitan areas, lighting fiber up in a northern Idaho town and planting a flag in a city south of the research triangle in North Carolina. Residents of the region of greater Sandpoint, Idaho (a service area of nearly 10,000 residents), and Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina (population of around 25,000), will soon see the benefits of fiber Internet access with Ting’s Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service.

Sandpoint Successes

In the spring of 2017, Sandpoint began leasing out part of its core dark fiber infrastructure to Ting. The Toronto-based ISP has been working on building out its fiber in the Idaho town since early April of this year, and just lit up its first customers (two small businesses) from a fiber expansion effort in downtown and central Sandpoint. Eventually Ting is planning on offering FTTH for residential and business access in Sandpoint, as well as Dover, Ponderay, and Kootenai, all in Bonner County. 

Sandpoint worked on building out its own dark fiber network for around five years, with the intent of leasing its infrastructure out to ISPs. Crews installed two conduits, one to reserve for emergency communications that the city would retain, and one for an open access network for ISPs to utilize.

The city has already entered into one non-exclusive franchise agreement with Intermax, which provides fiber to commercial businesses, and has contracted out fiber builds with Fatbeam. Both companies are local to the northern Idaho region.

A Long Time Coming

logo-fuquay-varina-nc.png The town of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, has been making strides toward gaining a fast Internet network ever since high speed fiber Internet has slowly expanded in the region. Ting already provides fiber to the neighboring town of Holly Springs, which is about 5 miles from Fuquay-Varina. And, Google Fiber set up access across the triangle, with mixed results.

Fuquay-Varina never made plans to formulate a town-run ISP, mainly because a North Carolina law passed in 2011 created barriers that effective prohibit new municipal ISP ventures. Yet, starting in 2015 the town had made successful investments in their backbone fiber infrastructure, utilized for municipal services, with the hopes of luring ISPs to invest in providing broadband there. We spoke to Assistant Town Manager Mark Matthews, who said that Fuquay-Varina reached out to a number of possible broadband providers, including the incumbents, but none of the conversations panned out. They saw the strongest commitment in Ting. 

“When Ting approached the Town, it quickly became clear that they were serious about making an investment in Fuquay-Varina,” Matthews said. “Ting has quickly made a name for themselves right next door in Holly Springs, so our residents are already familiar with what they have to offer.”

Public-Private Partnerships: When They Work, When They Don’t

Public-private partnerships (P3s) between municipalities and private ISPs are often hard to maneuver, to the detriment of the locality looking for a low-risk way to improve its broadband access. We’ve written a lot about these complicated relationships. The ISPs have less to lose and so have better bargaining power.

logo-ting.png Ting Fiber is a newer provider whose business model gravitates toward these kinds of partnerships -- knowing the costs and liaising with local governments involved in breaking ground on fiber connections. The company’s most well-known partnership is with the City of Westminster, Maryland, which we’ve written about as a model of how these P3s could be effective.

In the case of Sandpoint and Fuquay-Varina, Ting has actually decided to invest in building out the fiber infrastructure on the integral fiber backbones the cities offer. Both cities have at least partial fiber grids for key services such as emergency communications, and institutions such as City Hall.

In its first foray into fiber Internet provision in the states, Ting, which began as a mobile wireless provider, bought the majority share in Blue Ridge InternetWorks, a small provider in Charlottesville, Virginia, and began operating a fiber network. It’s since started providing services in Westminster, Maryland, Holly Springs, North Carolina, and Sandpoint. It’s also announced expansions in Centennial, Colorado in addition to Fuquay-Varina. For home fiber broadband Ting plans cost $89/month for symmetrical gigabit connectivity with unlimited data usage, plus startup fees; business plans range and are customized based on need.

Image credit Fvman [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.