SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some areas of Charleston and South Charleston should see higher speeds in their internet and other data-processing services in the next year. Some could see them as soon as next month.
Alpha Technologies, a Hurricane-based business technology company, is installing a 35-mile fiber-optic ring in the two cities to provide faster transfer of data at 1 gigabyte per second.
“Some folks are going to be turned on before Thanksgiving,” said Charlie Dennie, director of special projects for Alpha Technologies. “We’re probably about six months away from completing the project.”
The fiber optic installation is not an internet project, although internet service providers will lease some of the capacity, Dennie said. Some data that will move through the system will be point-to-point transmission without going through the internet, he said.
“Our primary concern is the speed from your facility to our facility and the capacity to move more data back and forth between the two points,” he said.
What one-gigabyte service means for businesses or people on the system is faster upload and faster download times with practically no lag time, Dennie said.
“And some folks will have more. Some people have already opted for 10-gigabyte connectivity,” he said.
“We’re going to hit all the office towers and almost all the multi-tenant office buildings in downtown Charleston.”
Businesses in South Charleston had been excited about the new service, but talk had quieted lately. Now that the date for startup nears, they are talking again, said Amanda Ream, executive director of the South Charleston Chamber of Commerce.
“Whenever we see an expansion of broadband, we see an opportunity for expansion of businesses in the area and enticement for new businesses to come into the area,” she said.
Because of the compact nature of fiber optic lines and because of right-of-way costs, the installation of the $5 million system is different from other utility work, Dennie said. Cables are going into two conduits that together are less than two inches in diameter, he said. Trenches are only 12 to 18 inches deep, and techniques known as microtrenching and horizontal directional drilling are used, he said. The result is a narrow cut in streets or sidewalks that is easily filled back in with concrete, he said.
Lines are underground because of the difficulty and expense of using existing utility poles on rights of way held by other companies, Dennie said.
“It literally could take years to get the pole rights to do that job,” he said.
Alpha Technologies worked around that by using rights of way held by Charleston, South Charleston and the state Division of Highways, he said. In exchange for using the public rights of way, the cities and the DOH will be able to use part of the fiber optic system for their own purposes, such as controlling traffic signals, he said.
While this work is in progress, Alpha Technologies is also installing fiber for six other companies that provide internet and other data services, Dennie said.