High-speed internet is coming to South County, as local providers have been installing fiber internet lines and infrastructure underground and on utility poles in recent months. This work will continue well into next year in an effort to expand the availability of fast, reliable data throughout Morgan Hill and Gilroy.
Frontier Communications has been the most active installer of the modern new fiber lines, which can deliver data over the internet at up to 75 times faster than their cable predecessors. Frontier began installing the new broadband equipment in Santa Clara County in March 2021, Frontier Vice President of External Communications Chrissy Murray said.
The work has been highly noticeable among residents and motorists in Morgan Hill in recent months. Crews from HCI and other contractors have been digging up portions of local roadways and resurfacing after installation. Frontier has been installing fiber in utility poles the company already owns in the right-of-way, and in existing conduit underground. They have also been installing new conduit to accommodate the new fiber lines, Murray said.
“We chose Morgan Hill due to what we feel was the need of the market as well as the extensive existing plant we could leverage to facilitate the upgrades,” Murray said. “Also, we feel our existing relationships with the City of Morgan Hill help complement the buildout process.”
Frontier plans to complete most of the current phase of upgrades in Morgan Hill by early 2023, Murray said. Other fiber internet installation and upgrade work in other areas of the county will continue over the next several years.
Similar work is coming to Gilroy. Frontier Communications plans to begin an “ambitious” fiber optic upgrade in Gilroy in August, Vice President of External Affairs Doug McAllister told the city council in June.
The work, taking place throughout the city, will replace the current copper wiring with fiber cables, he said.
According to McAllister, about 10,500 addresses will be able to hook up to the service once it is complete.
More than half of the fiber cables will be placed in existing infrastructure, he added, which will reduce the need to dig up roadways throughout Gilroy.
The recent upgrades have been connected mostly to residential customers, though some commercial customers have been reached with the new fiber as well. Murray declined to say what specific neighborhoods or areas the upgrades are targeting for “competitive reasons.”
Telecommunications service has always been a touchy subject in Morgan Hill, as local internet speeds and reliability have significantly lagged those of other Silicon Valley communities. A 2016 study by Tellus Ventures that analyzed local telecommunications infrastructure gave Morgan Hill a “D” grade.
“The service available in Morgan Hill does not meet the expectations of the vast majority of residents,” states the 2016 study.
Residents have also been frustrated in recent years by a number of sudden, large-scale internet outages that can last the full work-day—bringing productivity to a halt for local companies and people who work from home. City officials have said that over the years, some companies have declined to move to Morgan Hill because of the slow, unreliable internet infrastructure.
Much of this lackluster history is owed to the fact that previous provider, Verizon, did not make consistent upgrades to the phone and internet infrastructure, and “the below industry average cable infrastructure maintained by Charter Communications,” says the 2016 Tellus Ventures report.
Frontier Communications took over ownership of Verizon’s telephone systems in Morgan Hill and throughout California in 2016. Charter Spectrum and South Valley Internet also installed some fiber internet lines in South County in recent months, according to city staff.
City officials in recent years have also tried to facilitate the installation and upgrade to fiber internet wherever possible in Morgan Hill, although their ability to influence private providers is limited. The city’s efforts include increased public outreach; working with telecoms providers to “stimulate investment” in local upgrades; implementing new design standards for infrastructure installation for new developments; and approving encroachment permits, according to city staff.
The new fiber internet lines are a vast upgrade from the previous cable telecoms services, according to recent customer reviews and industry experts. Data can be sent on fiber cables farther than cable or copper lines, while maintaining signal strength, Murray explained.
Data speeds from fiber cables are 25-75 times faster than cable; more durable and weatherproof than older methods; and more energy efficient, Murray added.
“This will make working from home easier, online education, gaming, telehealth and everything you and your family do from home, faster and more reliable for generations to come,” Murray said.