The Kent County Commissioners last week moved to end a feud between two Internet companies installing fiber optic Internet in the county.
The commissioners directed the county’s public works chief to end a first-come-first-serve policy in the permitting process that ignited a race to stake claims to prime areas.
“This is a good problem to have,” said Commissioner Ron Fithian. “They are competing to get as many customers as they can. I’d rather have this problem than someone dillydallying around [or] not having companies willing to do it.”
For about 18 months Talkie Communications and ThinkBig Networks have competed to provide fiberoptic Internet to homes in Kent County, but have waged a ground war to beat each other into prime areas of the county in order to be the first to sign up Internet customers.
Fithian said the goal of the commissioners is to make high speed Internet available for everyone in the county and that the policy of letting only one company in an area at a time was fueling a feud to get to the prime areas first — and slowing down progress in providing service to all Kent Countians.
The Commissioners directed Kent Public Works Director Mike Moulds to approve the permits by streets and not by entire communities, which would allow the companies to work on separate streets in the same neighborhood without being right on top of each other.
The public works department can no longer deny access to an area for one company until the other provider is finished.
“They get their permit, let them roll,” said Commissioner Bob Jacob.
Moulds expressed concerns about traffic control on the roads during installation and the commissioners said that companies not abiding by proper traffic control laws for utilities would be shut down for a few days as penalty.
“We’ve got to get their attention,” Fithian said.
The decision follows a request by Kent County IT Director Scott Boone on Oct. 13 to give ThinkBing a $100,000 subsidy to wire the Big Woods community when Talkie Communications had already applied for a permit to install fiber with their own money.
The Commissioners rescinded the $100,000 subsidy at the Oct. 20 meeting.