PACfiber Director of Operations Noah Covington, with 33 years of employment with Pembroke Telephone Company, which is now known as PACfiber (PAC), updated Glennville Rotarians last week at their August 16, 2023, meeting on the history and development of the company. He added the areas that will soon be served with high-speed Internet in Tattnall County, with a goal to expand the service to more Tattnall Countians.
"Pembroke Telephone Company was formed in 1905, so it has been around 118 years. After returning from World War II, Paul and Ivey Beardslee purchased the company in 1946. It has remained in the family for 77 years and is currently owned by their daughters, Jeanne McCormick and Mary Anna Hite. The family built and operated telephone lines throughout northern Bryan County and a small area of southeastern Bulloch County," said Covington.
"This saw a transition from mechanical switching to digital switching in the 1980s and then to dial-up Internet in the 1990s. DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) was introduced in the early 2000s, and then our first FTTH (Fiber to the Home) tests in 2004. By 2010, we were working toward a complete overbuild of our serving areas to FTTH, completing this in 2014," he explained.
On February 1, 2020, the announcement was made by the Governor that a U.S, Department of Agriculture (USDA) Reconnect Grant had been awarded.
"This Reconnect 1 grant was a 50/50 total project cost of four million dollars, of which half was a grant and the other half a loan. This project was essentially completed in June of 2022, in a little over two years, and served 964 households, 75 square miles, and a six-year build-out," he said.
In March 2020, COVID restrictions began, hampering the supply chain, however.
The Reconnect 2 grant application was next approved in January of 2021, which was six million dollars, and this was a 75 grant/25 loan. When this is completed in June of 2024, it will serve 1326 households, 80 square miles, and a six-year build-out, Covington commented.
Since then, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) awards were made, amounting to four million dollars, with a ten-year build-out that will serve 1267 locations.
"Although we applied for the Reconnect 3 grant, which would have included more of Tattnall County, we were not approved. Yet, we are now in Reconnect 4, a $12.5 million project that is a 75 grant/25 loan project. When this is estimated to be completed in June 2027, it will add 1385 households to high-speed Internet service, covering 108 square miles, and with a six-year build-out," he said.
With the addition of state and federal grants through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money, overall project costs are $27.5 million, funded by grants of $17 million and $10.5 million from PACfiber. This will add 4941 households to be served with high-speed Internet over 290 square miles, with a seven-year build-out.
"Our goal is to complete these grant projects by the deadline so that we can serve more customers the quickest way possible. We are looking to expand in the Black Creek area with the industry buildup in that area and to add to our service in Tattnall and Evan counties," said Covington.
"While we are adequately staffed with employees who are trained and capable of installing underground fiber optic lines as well as splicing, home installations, and repairs, we look forward to growing our employees and our Tattnall County customers,” said Covington.