Point Broadband of Opelika will expand cable and Internet services into Auburn, starting with a small service area with plans to increase coverage over time.
Chad Wachter, general counsel of Point Broadband, said the company has received calls from potential customers inquiring about services, but the company could not expand into Auburn when it was owned by the city of Opelika. Opelika sold the business, formerly known as OPS ONE, to Point Broadband, a West Point, Georgia-based company, for $14 million a year ago.
"When the city of Opelika had it, they couldn't serve outside their city; we're not bound that way," Wachter said. "We've been engaged in conversation with the city for a while and those conversations have been on ... which areas of the city the city would like us to look at. I don't view those conversations as over."
The Auburn City Council approved a non-exclusive franchise agreement for cable service with Point Broadband at its meeting this week, but council members expressed the desire to see the company expand its reach into areas of Auburn that still do not have cable and Internet providers.
"I know there's some conversations about expanding to areas where we do not have coverage," Councilman Brett Smith said to Wachter. "That's a need in our area, and I know that would probably require some capital investment from your company. Is that in the game plan at some point?"
Wachter said the company will take a "very cautious, gradual approach," but that acquiring the addresses of those in need would help move the conversation forward.
"We'll go to the people who have called us first, and we'll expand from there," he said. "We’ll meet with anybody on the city council.
"Normally what we do is sit down … and take all that information at one time and then respond. We are open to the dialogue and looking at it and we’ll be very transparent."
A map of initial coverage areas shows Point Broadband expanding into a small area around the Auburn Mall, and later, into an area that stretches along Highway 280. To view the map, find this story on auburnvillager.com.
The franchise agreement will come up for renewal in eight years.
Solving the issue of unserviced parts of Auburn has long been a topic for local and state leaders. Most recently, Gov. Kay Ivey signed two bills in May that aim to help increase broadband services in rural parts of Alabama. One bill allows broadband carriers to work with electricity providers and use their easements and infrastructure. The other amends the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act to expand the definition of an "unserved area" eligible for grant funding and increases the percentage of project costs eligible for funding.