At their January meeting, the Muscatine Board of Water, Electric and Communications Trustees approved a resolution to award the construction contract for the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) project to low bidder, Atlantic Engineering Group, Inc. (AEG) of Braselton, GA which has completed 41 such city-wide fiber projects in 31 states and 8 foreign countries.

System work is expected to begin in May followed by neighborhood-level system construction and the first customer cutovers as early as August 2017.

“We have taken one more giant step toward becoming a Gigabit community,” said General Manager, Sal LoBianco. “Within a few months, customers will begin to experience first-hand the advantages giga-bit connectivity will bring to Muscatine. AEG has a vast amount of experience and expertise, along with a great reputation having built over 25,000 miles of fiber infrastructure in the US and abroad.”

Bids for the FTTH project were opened at a public meeting January 9th and while AEG’s low bid was slightly higher than MP&W’s estimate, it was significantly lower than the other six bidders. Following management and staff review, AEG offered several cost saving alternatives which provided estimated savings of over $1 million and brought the final contract price to $7,541,567.79, which is about $200,000 under the original estimates.

“We’ve done a lot of work in the background to get this project ready for construction,” said Tim Reed, Utility Service Delivery Director, “and now with our contractor on board, we’re excited to see our plans realized and our customers will soon be able to take advantage of the new system which will serve us for decades to come.”

MP&W currently serves large enterprise customers with a fiber network.  Fiber is also already in place from MP&W’s central office to nearly 100 “node” locations within the city. The FTTH project will replace the “last mile” of copper coaxial cable and associated field electronics with a passive (i.e., no field electronics) optical fiber system for both residences and small business locations throughout Muscatine, enabling Internet speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second, conversion of TV services to Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and a new Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) telephone service.

“The obvious story of fiber is the fantastic increase in Internet speeds,” said Erika Cox, Employee and Community Relations Director, “and we’re also really excited about advances that will be possible with IPTV from a more interactive and graphically-rich guide with enhanced search, to network DVR with restart and catch up capabilities, to expanded On Demand content.

Our fiber system will easily enable mobile streaming access and deliver 4k Ultra HD programming, the next big video visual experience, as content becomes available from providers and customers upgrade their devices,” Cox said.

In addition to the expanded services, customers will benefit greatly in the long term because the new fiber system will reduce maintenance costs and help the MP&W Communications Utility maintain its 99.99% record of reliability.

In other business, the Trustees agreed to set dates to receive bids and conduct a public hearing for the Unit 9 Boiler Roof Repair Project. The Board further approved Reimbursement Resolutions expressing official intent regarding certain capital expenditures to be reimbursed from proceeds of future debt obligations.

Besides receiving financial statements, regular monthly reports from staff and recommended actions, the Trustees reviewed the Utility’s 2016 Critical Issues and Key Performance Indicators and approved 2017 Critical Issues.