Fiber-optic project sets the stage for continued growth
TONICA — The village of Tonica may be small, but residents will soon be enjoying a service that most residents of the Illinois Valley’s larger communities don’t have: high-speed fiber-optic internet service.
The Tonica Telephone Co.’s three-year strategy, known as the “Fiber to the Home” project, is well underway. Approximately 60 rural customers were given initial priority because of the fewer options available to them, but beginning in 2019, in-town residents will begin gaining access to the fiber optic data transmission service.
“We started with our furthest out customers, because they need the internet access and those in town have access over the phone lines,” Village President and Tonica Telephone Co. employee Kevin Sluder said.
Like many small, independent phone companies, Tonica Telephone Co. has been steadily losing landline customers, but the “Fiber to the Home” project offers the company a hold on the future.
“We currently have about 300 landline customers, 200 of which are residential and about a hundred are commercial, but we’ve been losing about 20 a year for the past five years. I think that’s started to plateau, though,” Sluder said.
As the company installs the cabled bundles of fiber-optic lines, each home will be connected to its own line. Sluder said the fiber-optic service will require less maintenance than co-axial-provided service currently offered in-town. Download speeds will be approximately 20 Mbps, but Sluder said the system will be capable of one gigabyte per second, and that more than one home could be operated off of each small fiber, if needed.
“Those working at home need a stable connection to the world, and many homes can have 20 to 30 devices connected. There’s computers, phones, tablets, gaming systems, appliances, televisions, streaming services and more. The demand is there,” Sluder said.
A fiber-optic cable is about the width of a human hair and is made from glass. These cables allow for an increased bandwidth over a greater distance than the more standard wire cables. The connections of the fibers are made with a fusion splicer, which provides a precision weld of the fragile ends.
The project is part of the federal Broadband Initiative to improve internet access to unserved or underserved rural communities. Speaking as the village president, Sluder said the “Fiber to the Home” project will be beneficial to the future development of Tonica.
A new and larger Casey’s General Store is scheduled for construction next year at the intersection of Route 251 with North 20th Road, and another well-known chain may be opening a location nearby soon after.
“Businesses want fast internet, and I’ve always thought that once the development of that area by I-39 begins, it’ll be like dominoes,” Sluder said of Tonica’s potential for growth.
The village of Tonica is well situated near an interstate and also offers a convenient route to the popular and recently expanded state parks nearby.
“The key to growth is offering a solid backbone of infrastructure, and a high-speed connection to the world is a great place to begin,” he said.
For more information, visit the Tonica Telephone Co. website at www.tonicacom.net.