Parts of Franklin Street are getting an internet service upgrade this month through the installation of fiber optic communication lines.
According to a press release from the Town of Chapel Hill, the installation will be taking place on the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets and in front of Walker’s Funeral Home.
“Every day, everyone’s expectations are to be more wireless and more mobile, so this helps facilitate it,” said Scott Clark, Executive Director for Technology with the Town.
The N.C. Department of Transportation approved a request from Spirit Communications to install small-cell fiber optic towers in Chapel Hill. Several companies like Spirit, Verizon and AT&T are implementing this all over the country in areas with a high population density.
Clark said since Franklin Street is a public road, the Town does not have a say in the approval process. However, it helps with things like gathering traffic permits and working with construction to make sure the design fits the Town.
“These are small and attach to something that looks like a telephone pole and provide cell service and data service to folks in areas where there is a large concentration of people,” he said.
The installation of these small-cell fiber optic towers takes the strain off of the larger towers on the interstate and will increase data from 4LTE to 5G while improving overall connectivity.
Paul Jones, a clinical professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science, said the fiber optic lines will hopefully facilitate economic development since a lot of businesses require fast internet access. UNC already has relatively good internet speed, but this does not apply to Franklin Street, Jones said.
The rising population density makes an economic case for the installment of these lines.
“The business here is not just economic development, but it will benefit everybody in that area: people that want to live in an apartment there and people that want to run their business there,” Jones said.
According to the Town's press release, work began on Jan. 14 and will conclude Jan. 29. All work besides the sites in front of Carolina Square and Walker's Funeral Home near 140 West Franklin will take place at night from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Work will be done during the day for the two previously mentioned locations, so as not to disturb residents.
“For the most part, they will make every effort to minimize the impact on traffic," Clark said. "It doesn’t mean there won’t be any though."
Most of the work will be done on the edge of the sidewalk, so traffic should not be majorly disrupted, Clark said. A lane or parking spot could be blocked during construction depending on the size of the installation site. The installation process itself takes place after the application of horizontal drilling equipment. A small hole is dug, the sidewalk is drilled and the cable itself is pulled through a conduit.
“We are talking about a long-term plan that will be able to make a difference in gigabyte connection for our businesses,” Jones said.
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