Co-op customers near Berlin readying for Sprout Fiber Internet

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This graphic shows, in different colors, when Cullman Electric Cooperative customers can expect access to Sprout Fiber Internet. (Cullman Electric Cooperative)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Sprout Fiber Internet service from the Cullman Electric Cooperative will soon be available in the Berlin area. Cullman Electric Cooperative Manager of Communications & External Affairs Brian Lacy said the Co-op has received great feedback from the eight residential customers and one business that served as “friendlies” or beta testers over the past few weeks.

“We have had almost 8,400 people who have basically registered through our website to indicate their interest in Sprout,” he said. Of those 8,400, approximately 2,300 are in Phase 1 of the Sprout rollout. “We haven’t really started marketing yet. That’s just from asking people to check out our website to see what they can find out.”

So far, the mainline construction for Phase 1 has made its way through the Berlin, Fairview and Holly Pond area. Crews from OnTrac are now in the Berlin area installing drop lines, so residents should see them out and about.

Explained Lacy, “That is basically the line that goes from the main power line to the outside of the house. There is a box that gets installed on the outside of every house and business, near the electric meter, and that’s where the fiber line will run, from the power line to the home.”

For those subscribers in the Berlin area where the drop lines and boxes are being installed, Lacy said the Co-op is hopefully they will be online sometime in mid-January. The box on the outside of the house is called an NID (Network Interface Device).

“Once that NID is connected on someone’s house, the last step is in January a home install crew will be scheduled to go out to those people’s homes and run the fiber from the box on the outside of their home into their house either through the crawl space or however they determine is the best way to do it,” he said.

The Co-op has been in communication with those subscribers as well as customers who have made inquiries to let them know that the drop line installers are in the Berlin area and home install crews will be scheduled. Lacy encourages those who are interested in subscribing to do so now while they have crews focused in that area.

He said, “If you think you are going to want it, let us know now while we know the construction crew is going to be in your area.”

In November, a small group of eight homes and one business served as beta testers and has been fully connected for several weeks.

“We have been talking with those members to make sure everything is going right and if they do have any issues, now is the time for us to work through those before we go live with everyone,” said Lacy, who described the feedback as “excellent.” “The speed and the reliability have been so much better than anybody has been able to have access to before now.”

He continued, “We have used a train car analogy. If you picture that loop that the mainline construction crews will continue to work around towards Hanceville and over to Dodge City and Bremen as they move around. Then back towards Fairview and Holly Pond, the drop crews will come behind them and the install crews will come behind them. We will just continue that process all the way around our service area. Hopefully, if things are going well and the response continues to be as strong as it has been, sometime during 2021, we will look at the numbers, and if the project is as successful as we hope it is, that will give indication to our board to make a decision about doing additional phases. The end goal, if this works right, is to have Sprout Fiber Internet available to every home and business that is served by Cullman Electric Cooperative. If everything keeps going well with Phase 1 over the course of this next year, I think we will see that come to fruition.”

Phase 1 is expected to continue its loop around Cullman County throughout 2021 and possibly into the early part of 2022.

To learn more about Sprout Fiber Internet, visit www.cullmanec.com/sprout.

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