Broadband coming to west bank

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2012



LAPLACE – Within the next two weeks, residents of the west bank of St. John the Baptist Parish should start to see an excess of utility trucks installing elements of a fiber optic cable network for broadband Internet as various companies will start competing for new customers.

Bill Ironside, president of Reserve Telecommunications, said technicians have already been in some neighborhoods this week starting the groundwork for the new network. He said the company has already run the cable over the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Gramercy, and linemen will begin constructing the infrastructure and hanging the cables onto utility poles.

“This will be included in our expansion into St. James Parish, which began last year when we took over Charter Communications operations in unincorporated areas of the parish,” Ironside said. “We will start with the St. John west bank, then continue to St. James and finally extend into Pleasure Bend.”

Ironside said RTC, which will offer high speed Internet, cable television and eventually phone service to the west bank, plans to begin connecting customers in the beginning of March with everyone wired up by the end of May or beginning of June. He said all of St. John and St. James Parish should be connected by August.

Ironside said the close proximity and limited number of homes on the west bank works as an advantage to RTC in that it should not take much time to get the infrastructure in place. He said the new connections could be a driving force behind future development.

“We are working to get industry, the parish government and the school systems on board as well,” Ironside said. “The region has never had access to broadband Internet, and it has been something the residents have wanted for years.”

In addition to RTC, Comcast, the cable company that provides service to portions of St. John Parish’s east bank, also plans to offer service to west bank residents this year with the company’s expansion into Houma. Those companies will compete with AT&T, which offers broadband service, but only to neighborhoods in the vicinity of the parish courthouse in Edgard, as well as those near the Veterans Memorial Bridge. The majority of the 3,400 residents of the west bank only have access to satellite-based Internet and TV services.

Comcast spokeswoman Patricia Collins said customers will have access to advanced services such as on demand, high definition channels and high-speed phone service and Internet. AT&T spokeswoman Sue Sperry said residents may at some point be able to buy the company’s U-verse service, which also provides broadband Internet and a wide range of television offerings. She said the service is being rolled out gradually.