Circle Fiber is in the process of delivering fiber optic cable to the City of Jackson.
“We are building it out now. You see construction crews all over town,” said Kevin Cantwell, president of Big River Communications, the parent company of Circle Fiber.
Eastern Missouri Industries has eight crews burying the fiber or hanging it from utility poles.
In addition to providing fiber to homes and businesses, Circle Fiber plans to offer free Wi-Fi to Uptown Jackson, City Park and the JHS football field.
“We are now starting to take orders for services,” Cantwell said. “You can go to circlefiber.com and on that home page, it says, ‘Put your address in here,” and if you’re in the City of Jackson, it will pull up your house and let you know what zone you’re in, because we had the city divided up in zones as we build out this network. We’re not waiting until the end to turn it on. As we open up the first zone, we’ll turn services on,” he explained.
The first zone is expected to be completed and turned on in April. “We hope to have customers up in April, even though we will be working in other zones in the city,” said Chris Simmons, president of Circle Fiber.
“If people don’t want to buy services from Circle Fiber, they still have the ability to have fiber run to the side of their house. That’s called a link. That link costs $25,” Cantwell said.
When a house has fiber connected to it, its value goes up 3.1 percent, Cantwell said. So even people who don’t want to use fiber may find it advantageous to have the link installed to their house.
“There are some individuals in town we come across who don’t want to buy our service. But they are going to try to sell their house sometime in the future, and the next person may want the fiber. For $25, to increase the value of their house, that’s better than putting in a bay window. There’s no reason everybody in town should not have fiber run to the side of their house. They don’t have to buy our services,” Cantwell explained.
The $25 installation is a special price that’s available while construction crews are in town. If residents wait until later, it will cost more to have workers return, and so the price for installation will be higher.
People who buy services from Circle Fiber will receive a $25 credit on their first bill. They also get the first month of service free.
Circle Fiber offers three products for residential customers:
Fiber 300 is 300 megabytes up and down for $49.99. Fiber 500 is 500 megabytes up and down for $59.99. There also is a one gig product that offers a gigabyte of data up and down for $79.99.
Prices for businesses are $79.99 for 300 mb, 119.99 for 500 mb and $299.99 for 1 gig if bundled with telephone services. Business telephone lines are $19.99.
Additional information is available on the Web site, www.circlefiber.com.
Circle Fiber is getting a good response from Jackson residents. “The sign-ups, as of now, since we opened it up, have been tremendous,” Cantwell said.
If residents refer other customers to sign up, both the person making the referral and the person being referred receive $25 credits.
Jackson is just a starting point for this fiber system.
“This is going to be a build-out throughout the Big River region, and we had to start somewhere. We started in Jackson, and will work our way across I-55 into north Cape and work our way down into Cape Girardeau,” Cantwell said.
If you live outside of the area where fiber is being built, you can still enter your address and phone on the Web site and Circle Fiber will consider coming to your area.
“That’s important, too,” added Simmons. “There are some areas that we are looking at, that we think we want to go into. If people go to the Web site and we’re not there, go ahead and give us the information so we can take that into consideration when we look at future areas for future build-out.”
There are plans to go to Oak Ridge, but paperwork with the federal government has not been completed for that area.
“This is not about getting email faster,” said Cantwell. “This is about economic development. This about education systems; putting our kids on a level playing field with everybody else. This is about telemedicine. This is about putting a next-generation gig network in rural America.
“This impacts population,” he added. When students come home from college and can’t get on the Internet, they may say, “Mom and Dad, I love you, but I can’t live here.” And they leave. “That’s part of the digital divide that impacts rural markets,” Cantwell said.
COVID-19 has been a boom for the broadband industry. People have worked from home and realized they don’t need to be in the office every day. People will be able to live in Jackson and work for major corporations in St. Louis. They will be able to video conference all day long.
Snow days may become obsolete as schools could switch to virtual learning when students can’t get there to school.
“You can’t do that if you don’t have the infrastructure,” Cantwell said. “And that’s what we’re building.”
Circle Fiber is planning to wrap up construction work in the last zone in Jackson by November, Simmons added. Some areas outside of the city limits will be completed in October.
It will be at least another year before the project is completed to include the City of Cape Girardeau.