Frequently Asked Questions
PIE&G is excited to bring fiber speed internet to members receiving electric service throughout its entire territory. Building out the fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) internet network is a multiyear phased project, but will be worth the wait. The fiber system will be installed over PIE&G’s existing electric distribution infrastructure and will deliver reliable, high-speed internet access directly to homes and businesses.
FAQs will be updated as new information becomes available.
PIE&G’s Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet Project
Our electric cooperative is building a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) internet network – the gold standard of communications transmission – over its existing electric distribution infrastructure that will take fiber directly into homes and businesses to deliver reliable, high-speed internet services.
This is a multi-year FTTH buildout, encompassing 3,220 miles of fiber, that will ultimately reach all PIE&G members. Since we will be using our existing electric infrastructure for the buildout, we will start offering access to members who receive electric service. The buildout will eventually provide access to broadband benefits for approximately 30,000 rural northeast Michigan homes and businesses. Click here to see the proposed construction timeline.
Planning has been under way for some time as PIE&G explored the possibility of delivering high-speed internet service to our members. We’ve been working on the detailed network design. We are pleased to have announced our proposed construction timeline. The network will be built in four (4) phases. The estimated time it will take to build each phase of the network is approximately one year each. We will provide updates as we know more.
The buildout will be completed in phases and by feeders (or zones). (See the timeline here) Since the network will take advantage of our existing electric service routes, everyone with electric service will have an opportunity to subscribe to our service over time.
With most of our members having little or no access to broadband, we understand that many people want to be first to get the service. To ensure we will deliver the best service possible once we build the network, proximity to PIE&G’s headquarters for operational support is the main consideration for the initial build location. The second consideration is the nature of our Tap design, which dictates the order of the build. For more information, see our 2021 July-August Country Lines article. We will share more information as the implementation plan is finalized.
See our proposed construction timeline to learn more about the plans to build the network. Later this fall, PIE&G will have an online preregistration portal available that will allow members to enter their electric account number and home or business address to determine if the household or business is in the service area, and/or when service might be available. The portal will continually be updated as construction progresses and will be accessible through smartphones and other electronic devices. For those without smartphone or laptop internet access at home, our Member Service Representatives will be available by phone to provide information and pre-register members where sign-up is open.
No. Electric rates will not be raised to subsidize the buildout or deployment. Even though PIE&G’s energy rates are no longer regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), we comply with strict rules regarding the subsidization of non-energy activities by electric and natural gas utilities. All expenses must be properly assigned to each of our operation activities, requiring a manual oversight and an accounting of the allocation of resources to each operation activity in order to comply with the MPSC requirements. In other words, state regulations requires that each of our divisions (electric, natural gas and fiber) must be treated as separate, stand-alone operations and the finances of one may not be used to subsidize the other.
PIE&G has not yet finalized plans for the first phase of construction as to where and when internet service installations will likely begin. We will have a pre-registration tool on our new fiber website when it’s launched later this summer, and eventually sign-up will be available through our SmartHub tool, for our members who are interested in taking fiber internet service. The initial project will be focused on electric members, since we will take advantage of our existing utility poles on which we will hang our fiber.
The Technology—Internet Service
Fiber-optic systems are made up of tiny strands of glass that carry data using light waves, resulting in much faster internet speeds and better reliability than traditional copper lines. Most internet providers use fiber in their systems but use copper lines for the final connections to the home, resulting in slower speeds. PIE&G joins with other electric cooperatives in their belief that FTTH is the best, most sustainable communications choice. With our FTTH service, we offer “symmetrical” speeds, meaning you’ll enjoy the same high speeds whether uploading or downloading.
A fiber-optic network sends and receives data at the speed of light. In addition to super-fast transmission speeds, a fiber optic network can carry an extremely high amount of data. Fiber is also more reliable than other networks, because it’s less susceptible to interference and damage from lightning and other acts of nature.
Broadband commonly refers to high-speed internet access that is always on and faster than traditional dial-up access. Broadband fiber-optic networks can deliver voice, data, video and email services over the internet. PIE&G will offer internet and voice services. Email and video streaming can occur over the internet, but will not be offered as a separate service. Subscribers of the PIE&G internet service can arrange for or use their existing email services (like Google mail, Yahoo and AOL) and can arrange for or use their existing online streaming services (such as Roku, Netflix, Hulu, Sling and others, some who offer local channels).
Next Steps—Getting Service
PIE&G has created a new separate broadband division, which will offer fiber-based internet and telephone services to members who receive electric service. The fiber division will be managed apart from the electric and natural gas divisions of the cooperative. Members will receive a different bill for each PIE&G service they subscribe to, whether it is electric, natural gas, or broadband service.
PIE&G has not yet developed the details or pricing of internet and voice services packages it may eventually offer. We are considering offering a package with a minimum of 100 megabits (Mbps) per second upload and download speeds (symmetrical service), and a package with a maximum of 1,000 Mbps (1 gigabit) per second upload and download speeds, along with managed Wi-Fi services. Packages and pricing for our services will be announced as we get closer to our launch date.
Yes. Prospective subscribers are encouraged to preregister for services through the pre-registration tool when it becomes available. Pre-registration will be accessed via your SmartHub account. See “How do I get the free SmartHub App?” instructions below. Check your Spotlight, Country Lines and this website for updates.
There are no data caps or bandwidth throttling (intentional slowing or speeding of internet service) with this service.
PIE&G plans to offer voice over internet protocol (or “VoIP”) in addition to broadband internet service at launch.
We will announce pricing once our service offerings are finalized.
PIE&G has not yet finalized plans for where and when internet service installations will likely begin. We will have a sign-up tool available on SmartHub for our members who are interested in taking broadband service. The initial project will be focused on electric members, since we will take advantage of our existing utility poles on which we will hang our fiber. Our pre-registration tool will be available through our SmartHub tool.
If you do not already have a SmartHub account and you’re interested in receiving fiber internet, create an account. For desk/laptop users, you can create one on our home page using the SmartHub icon. Or you can download our free SmartHub app for your mobile or other devices following the instructions below). Once you have a SmartHub account, you can preregister to tell us that you’re interested. We’ll keep a list of interested members by geographic areas for planning purposes for each zone under consideration for the eventual build.
For Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, laptop devices), go to the App Store here and click ‘install’.
For Android devices (laptops, tablets and phones), go to Google Play here to get the SmartHub app and then click on ‘install’.
What are the first steps in planning for the fiber project?
As planning continues for the network design, PIE&G will begin the pole inventory and Make Ready Engineering phase of the process for fiber installation. Beginning mid-May, 2021, you will see authorized contractors from Davey Resource Group (DRG) in our service areas and on your property conducting pole-by-pole surveys to determine what preparations to existing poles are needed for the fiber installation.
The outline below begins with the first steps of Pole Inventory and Make Ready Engineering, followed by Make Ready Construction and so on. This series of steps will be repeated for each electric distribution route (feed) from each of our substations. Each of our substations have been assigned to one of 4 Phases of the project. We will announce the geographic areas included in each Phase of the project soon.
Step 1: Pole Inventory and Make Ready Engineering (MRE)– Approximately Four to Five Week Process per Feed
During the early stages of the fiber project, the focus is on evaluation, identification and preparations necessary for development of the network design for the eventual fiber build out. Field engineers will perform an inventory of all equipment on the electric utility poles of each electric feed coming from each substation. This data will be used for two purposes. One is to create a detailed digital mapping of the fiber routes to complete the design map, and the other is for Make Ready Engineering (MRE). During the MRE process, the field engineers will determine if modifications to any poles are required in order to support the fiber and the steel strand that accompanies it. Poles may need to be moved to make more space, or they may need to be replaced with stronger or taller poles. During the first phase, inspectors will also “ride out” the build, visiting every location throughout the project area and making notations of changes that may need to be made. They also make sure every member in the territory is included in the design. This phase can take four to five weeks.
Step 2: Make Ready Construction (MRC) – Four-to-12-Week Process per Feed
The timeline for make ready construction can vary widely, depending on the number of changes that need to be made to accommodate the fiber on the poles, terrain, weather and unforeseen complications. Line crews change poles, move transformers from one side of the pole to another, move wires on the pole, add new anchors to the poles, and perform other work to allow the ﬁber to be placed during the fiber construction phase. During this process, crews may need to de-energize power to a transformer in order to safely make the necessary updates to the poles and hardware. Once Make Ready Construction is complete, the locations on the poles where fiber will be attached will be free and clear of all obstructions, so the next phase, Fiber Construction, can begin.
Step 3: Fiber Construction – Four-to-Eight-Week Process
Fiber crews will begin the process of adding fiber-optic cable and steel strands to pole lines throughout the community. This process can vary whether electric lines are above or below ground. If underground, asphalt and concrete driveways will be bored under and a pedestal may be placed next to a transformer or junction box to allow for a service drop. Fiber construction can take four to eight weeks in the designated zone.
Step 4: Splicing – Three-to-Six-Week Process
Once the strand and ﬁber are both placed and secured, splicing can begin. Splicing can take three to six weeks for the main lines. In this phase, field workers called “splicers” join the necessary cables at each end and tap point and mount the splices in enclosures secured to the distribution poles or in pedestals.
Step 5: Service Drop Construction
Service drop construction may be done simultaneously with some of the previously mentioned steps, or it may be done after the main line fiber is in place. In this phase, the drop crews extend the ﬁber from the nearest splice point to the structure receiving service and leave coils of ﬁber in each location.
Step 6: Drop Splicing
Drop splicing is the next to last step of the process. The splicer connects the last length of ﬁber at the tap point and mounts a network interface device (NID) at the structure with the ﬁnal splice inside it.
After drop splicing is completed, the network is now ready to be turned over for installation to homes and businesses to start receiving service.
Step 7: Home or Business Installation
Finally, the fiber is connected to a fiber jack inside your home or office, where it’s plugged into the modem we provide! If you pre-register that you are interested in taking service, one of our member service representatives will contact you to schedule an appointment for an in-home installer to finalize your connection and test the services from your equipment. Once the installation is complete and tested, your service should be ready to go. Welcome to the world of high-speed internet!
Fiber construction often involves digging or trenching and our trucks to be in the neighborhoods. Our contractors will be trained to minimize any damage, and should take steps to minimize signs of digging before leaving the job. Feel free to call us at Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-423-6634 if you have any concerns about the construction process once it begins.
Many rural communities have not had access to broadband services and are considered unserved. Even where broadband was available, rural areas did not have access to the same speeds and capabilities as those in more urban areas. Broadband availability across our service area will help close the digital divide between those who have access to advanced technology and those who don’t. A few of the many advantages of broadband access are:
- online teaching capabilities allowing our students to learn from home
- healthcare benefits such as telemedicine
- work-from-home interoffice connectivity and videoconferencing capabilities that will help professionals stay in their homes, while being productive
- quality of life improvements through enhanced communications
- economic development and growth in rural areas. Access to high-speed internet can increase home values and attract businesses to communities.
Our sole reason for offering high-speed internet services is to meet the needs of members like you. You will no longer have to rely on DSL, fixed wireless or satellite internet to stay connected online. You will have access to reliable connections, be able to stream high-definition media smoothly and quickly, have the data capacity to download and upload data such as files, photos and videos at super-fast speeds, and have access to the latest technological advancements and applications. Our FTTH world-class service will be reliable, affordable and backed by PIE&G, your local, trusted co-op.
You will be able to connect multiple devices – such as cell phones, computers and laptops – simultaneously in your home or business without decreased download and upload speeds. The table below gives you a speed comparison between what you may have now and what’s possible with FTTH.
* Download speeds int the table above were calculated using the following averages:
Phone Photo – 3.15 MB
HD movie – 6 GB
Song – 3.5 MB
Game – 50 GB
No, you can sign up for just the internet (without phone service) and, you can also sign up for just phone service (without signing up for internet).
PIE&G’s phone service uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. Calls you make are processed over the public telephone switched network, which results in a higher quality call than traditional VoIP calls.
In the majority of cases, yes. We sign agreements with various carriers to “port” or transfer existing phone numbers to the new service.