Markle’s cable Internet provider says town needs fiber optic refit

The owner of Markle’s cable Internet provider says the town needs to be refitted with fiber optic service.

At the Markle Town Council’s regular meeting Wednesday, July 18, Tim Miles of S and R Communications LLC – Fiberhawk-Swayzee, told councilmen that a recent break in the buried cable revealed multiple splices, and a splice made by his predecessor had deteriorated.

“The city of Markle needs better Internet service than it has,” Miles said. “Our coaxial system is old and expired, and it needs to be replaced.”

He added replacing the system with broadband Internet service and building a fiber optic network in Markle would cost him around $1 million.

He also told councilmen there aren’t many subscribers in Markle currently, and he is losing money every month. He wanted to know how many people would subscribe to the service if it were upgraded to fiber optic.

“I think the best method to do right now is to try and get a feel for what, if I brought fiber into Markle, what kind of penetration I could get and to expect,” Miles said. “My gross revenue in Markle right now is less than $4,000 to $5,000 a month. I mean, it’s not good … I’ve got to look at improvements I can make in order to get more subscribers, and not a promise of more subscribers – I need commitments.”

He suggested the town make a commitment of $25,000 per month as an option. Another option would be to go in with another Internet service provider or even partner with the town.

Miles added that in other small towns such as Van Buren, LaFontaine and Gaston, where there were few subscribers, he shut off service rather than bear the expense to fix problems. S and R Communications bought the service in Markle in 2010.

The upgrade would take at least 12 months to complete, and Miles would have to hire at least one permanent, full-time technician for Markle, he said.

Council President Jeff Humbarger said a survey of the town’s residents would need to be made in order to determine the interest in subscribing to fiber optic broadband.

“We’ll think about it,” he told Miles. “Obviously people need to understand that in order to bring those kinds of services to town there’s cost involved, and we’ve got to plan how to pay for it and you’ve got to plan how you’re going to make money … obviously we’d love to see the town have better Internet.”

In other business before the council, an ordinance to annex about 30 acres of land into the town owned by Kyle and Lisa Lund was unanimously approved. Councilman Eric Bower was absent.

Also approved by consensus was $51,000 for improvements to the recently purchased police station building, presented by Town Marshal John Markley.

Items on the list include a video camera system, computers, printers, phone system, office furniture, carpeting and other repairs. Humbarger said he was comfortable with approving the improvements as long as they don’t exceed $51,000.

“It shouldn’t be more,” Markley said. “Some of the work I’ve started doing myself, on my own time.”

In another matter, Town Supervisor Rick Asher said the mixer on the water tower along U.S.-224 has been shut down because it was found to be using a high amount of amperage. When the water tower located at Novae is inspected on Aug. 2, he said they will also take a look at the mixer. He said he believes the hard, limestone  water has built up on the mixer, causing it to pull the additional amperage.

“Hopefully it just needs to be cleaned. That’s what happened last time,” Asher said. “That can be put back in service once it’s cleaned.”

Asher also reported the town has ordered its new pickup truck from Dellen in Greenfield.

The first budget hearing of the year will be on the agenda of the next regular town council meeting, scheduled for Aug. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Markle Fire Station.