April 22, 2014

RTC brings Fiber-to-the-Home project to Watford City

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Reservation Telephone Cooperative (RTC) began upgrading its outdated copper cable network with fiber-optic cable in Watford City in 2013. RTC spent most of last summer on Phases I and II of the Fiber-to-the-Home project and the company estimates it will spend roughly $14 million to overhaul their Watford City area network.
But with Watford City on the cusp of warm weather working months, RTC has Phase III of the project in their sights and feels that the Fiber-to-the-Home project will be money well spent.
“There are a lot of bigger cities that do not have near as good of service as we have out here,” states Kristin Jaeger, Marketing manager for RTC. “A complete network overhaul like the Fiber-to-the-Home project we have been deploying in Watford City is just not possible in most urban settings. We are ahead of a lot of national companies because of that fact and it is fun to be on the cutting edge of technology.”
Jaeger states that exchanging the old and outdated copper cable with new fiber-optic cable will give their customers many things that they did not have before, but the main thing is options.
“Instead of being limited by our equipment, our customers will have options,” states Jaeger. “Fiber is the way of the future. It does not have limitations like the copper cable, and it is easier to troubleshoot and maintain.”
RTC started Fiber-to-the-Home projects in 2008 in Parshall. From there they moved to Kenmare, Ross, White Earth, Mandaree, White Shield, Garrison, New Town and rural pockets all over areas that they service. Jaeger states that RTC has multiple projects going on at the same time, but Watford City is their main project right now.
“The age of the equipment in Watford City in combination with the growth the area is experiencing made Watford City a priority,” states Jaeger.
According to Jaeger, the process of installing fiber-optic cable is a fairly long process. Jaeger states that equipment has to be mounted, the fiber optic cable has to be placed into the ground and spliced and tested before it is connected at each home and business, which is what makes it so involved.  
“Some of the process of plowing, or placing the fiber-optic cable into the ground, was completed last summer. And in those areas that were completed, the fiber has been spliced and tested and is now ready to be put in service,” states Jaeger.
RTC has hired Vantage Point Solutions to schedule and complete the cutovers, and Jaeger states that they are in the process right now of contacting those customers to schedule a time to move their services over to fiber-optics.
Some customers, however, have not had fiber plowed to them yet. For those customers, RTC will begin the process of placing fiber-optic cable into the ground as early as May 5. Customers who get plowed this summer will be contacted once they are ready to be cut over.
“Cutovers will continue until they are complete, which could take until next winter,” states Jaeger.
When RTC TV customers are connected to the fiber network, they will automatically be switched to RTC’s advanced television services, which include more channel packages, more HD channels, whole home DVR and on-screen caller ID.
“TV package prices will remain the same on the fiber network,” states Jaeger. “But our customers will need a box for every television, where before they could view the basic package on any television plugged into a jack.”
RTC customers can also sign up for faster internet speeds and a new service being offered - video surveillance cameras.
“Our customers who are already using this new service love it,” states Jaeger. “The cameras are very high quality, and can be used indoors or outside. They can be used in both residential and business settings, and we offer a network storage service, allowing customers to review past footage from the surveillance cameras for a certain length of time.”
Finally, RTC’s new office building is scheduled to open later this year. It currently houses technical employees, but once it is open, Jaeger states that it will include customer service representatives, giving RTC a customer service presence in Watford City.
“Customers can pay their bills, sign up for new services or make changes to their existing services right in Watford City,” states Jaeger.
This will be the first time RTC has had a customer service presence in Watford City. For now, customers will need to continue using the phone to sign up for new services or make changes to existing services.