First fiber optic internet network proceeding but at slower pace than expected in Berks

First fiber optic internet network proceeding but at slower pace than expected in Berks

For months, large orange coils at street corners in Spring Township have stood as beacons for a fiber optic network under construction.

Crews and their equipment threading fiber cable under curbs and sidewalks in Spring and a few other Berks County municipalities seemed to have vanished after feverish activity early in the year.

With the bound coils that resemble hula hoops propped up or falling over in planting strips, residents have been left to wonder what happened to plans to build the first all-fiber internet network in Berks.

Nothing, according to the CEO of Wyomissing-based FastBridge Fiber LLC, other than the company having miscalculated the pace at which it could obtain permits for intersection crossings.

Workers lay fiber-optic cable for FastBridge Fiber along the 1100 block of Whitfield Boulevard in Spring Township. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Workers lay fiber optic cable for FastBridge Fiber along the 1100 block of Whitfield Boulevard in Spring Township in January. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

FastBridge began construction nearly a year ago of what it calls a “future-proof” all-fiber-optic network that will make lightning-fast internet service available to more than 7,000 homes and hundreds of businesses.

The process of obtaining permits, however, from the municipalities, and especially PennDOT where applicable, has been significantly slower than anticipated, said Eric Warren, FastBridge CEO.

Code enforcement officers don’t issue a broad permit covering the entire municipality, he said. Instead, each street crossing requires a permit, and those permits are approved for only a few crossings at a time.

“This is really the last step, getting the street crossings all connected,” Warren said.

Warren said other than the permit-related challenges, the project is going well, with an undisclosed number of residents and businesses in the first phase of the fledgling network – Spring Township, Wyomissing and Sinking Spring – getting services.

“We started construction in November of last year, and we’re providing service,” Warren said. “We can serve thousands and thousands and thousands of customers in the greater Reading area.”

While it was dormant over the summer in Spring Township, FastBridge crews are busy installing fiber cable in more municipalities west of Sinking Spring, Warren said.

Construction is the early stages in Lower Heidelberg and South Heidelberg townships and is expected to begin soon in Wernersville.

The company also is gearing up for work in Reading’s northern suburb.

“We continue to expand rapidly,” Warren said. “We’re starting construction in several new municipalities and starting engineering work on the northern side of town.”

Warren declined to specify the municipalities to be included in the northern expansion but said construction could start in early winter.

The company is also eying future expansion into southern Berks, he said.

FastBridge isn’t seeking to provide landline telephone services or cable television, though customers will be able to subscribe to streaming services to watch programs on TV or other devices.

The company is marketing its service as competition to cable giant Comcast, which offers internet services as well as cable television programming under the Xfinity name.

Warren said thousands of customers can sign up now for service. The company is also taking orders for those within the service area whose homes or businesses cannot presently be connected due to construction delays. Potential customers can check on service availability on the company’s website,