Due to lack of reservations by residents, the Orange Beach City Council - following the recommendation of the Orange Beach Telecommunications and Technology Committee - has ended the city’s support of a non-exclusive economic development partnership with CenturyLink to offer fiber internet in neighborhoods.
Launched nearly a year ago, the fiberhood initiative divided the city into seven neighborhood teams with each requiring 33% of its residents (a minimum of 1,000 residents across all seven neighborhoods) to express interest in the project in order for CenturyLink to proceed with the infrastructure investment. Residents interested in the project were asked to pay a refundable $25 reservation fee. The total build-out cost of the fiber project, for all seven neighborhoods, was estimated at $22 million for CenturyLink.
"The goal was always to provide the new investment in fiber infrastructure into residential-zoned areas, which over the long term would be expected to generate new work-from-home opportunities for citizens and business people," said City Administrator Ken Grimes Jr. "It is clear that the City Council remains committed to this goal and is willing to partner with the right firm when it is identified."
In late August 2017, the City Council approved the non-exclusive partnership for a year to see if the needed threshold could be met. In the spring, with reservations less than 20% of the goal, the city subcontracted with a project manager to give the initiative a boost, but that door-to-door effort could not gain enough momentum, with reservation still well below 50% of the goal.
“We did everything we could possibly do,” said Councilman Jerry Johnson, who chairs the Telecommunications Committee. “But the good news is there are other companies now interested in something similar. We will be talking to them this Fall just to see what they will bring to the table. We are not giving up on getting fiber internet to the residents in this city. Don't consider this a barrier, just one of the setbacks that you go through and we will continue until we find a solution.”
Residents who paid the $25 reservations fee will receive a full refund from CenturyLink by the end of August.