By Madeleine Miller | Dispatch Record

After years of research, the city of Lampasas is finalizing pole-attachment agreements with two internet-service providers, enabling them to provide high-speed fiberoptic internet to the city.

Lampasas residents soon will be able to choose from four internet-service providers, as Nextlink and Lampasas-based Roll Call will join AT&T and Suddenlink in serving customers inside the city limits.

Local businesses and residents have long been inconvenienced by what many say is slow, expensive and unreliable internet service. City Manager Finley deGraffenried and Economic Development Director Mandy Walsh said the city realized the extent of the problem when a series of outages plagued Lampasas during the summer of 2017.

“We had recognized before that our need for higher speeds and more choices,” deGraffenried said. “But it was really highlighted when we had the outages in 2017. We had a glaring lack of redundancy.”

Construction workers at sites throughout Central Texas accidentally severed the main line serving Lampasas multiple times. One outage left the city dark for 26 hours, straining the city’s businesses and first responders.

Residents had no internet or cell-phone service and could make calls only by using landline telephones.

Walsh said the city learned then that it was served by a single AT&T line and had no backup if the line failed. Not only was the city’s internet service sluggish and costly, it also was precarious.

“There wasn’t any segment of our community that wasn’t impacted by a lack of quality, redundant service,” deGraffenried said. “This is not just a Lampasas issue, It’s a small-town America issue.”

Soon after the outages, the city hired Atlanta-based Foresite Consulting Group to survey Lampasas residents on their internet needs, design a fiber ring for the city and assess possible business structures for local providers.

Walsh said the Foresight Consulting Group study, which was funded by the Lampasas Economic Development Corp., put the city “in touch with strong contacts within the telecom world” and helped the city attract internet-service providers interested in serving Lampasas.

DeGraffenried and Walsh said they consulted with numerous cities and internetservice providers since 2017 to learn about various internet-service models.

“One of our strategies throughout this was, if we continue to make noise and put pieces together that could be used by other members, would the private sector then step in, and would the current telecoms upgrade what they’re doing?” deGraffenried said.

Since the 2017 outages, AT&T has added a redundant line to Lampasas so that, if the main line is compromised, the city will have backup.

Walsh said the city is grateful for AT&T’s improvement, but local residents and businesses still need more options for internet service. Bringing multiple providers into the market will encourage each provider to expand its offerings and lower its prices, she said.

“When there’s competition, you’ve got to play your best game,” she said.

After considering several internet-service providers, the city selected Nextlink and Roll Call, neither of which has requested funding from the city.

Walsh says she expects the city will finalize poleattachment agreements with the providers within a week, allowing them to proceed with construction.

Brandin Lea, chief executive officer of Roll Call Security & Communications, said his company will offer three service packages, from speeds of 80 megabits per second download and 25 megabits per second upload to 300 MBps down and 75 MBps up.

Roll Call already provides parts of Lampasas County with terrestrial fixed wireless internet.

Nextlink received support through the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund in 2018 to serve parts of Lampasas County with wireless internet. Vice President of Corporate Development Kyle Towns said the company plans to provide all city residents with fiber-optic service.

Towns said Nextlink will offer packages ranging in speed from 25 MBps down and 5 MBps up to 1 gigabyte per second down and 200 MBps up.

Roll Call currently has a locally based service team, and Nextlink has bought an office just north of town and plans to also have a local service team.

Walsh and deGraffenried said the expanding internetservice market will allow local businesses to operate more efficiently, and may attract more businesses and residents to Lampasas. Some may choose to live in Lampasas and work remotely.

Dr. Neal Leavell, a dentist at Lampasas Dental Center and a member of the Economic Development Corp. board, said poor internet service is taxing to many local businesses, including his practice.

For instance, Leavell said if he needs to send a CAT scan to a specialist, he must put it on a DVD and mail it, as his office’s internet is not fast enough to allow him to send it online.

“All of our businesses face a certain amount of hardship based on speed and cost of service,” he said.

Leavell said he has encountered people and businesses who want to move to Lampasas but would be unable to operate here given the city’s slow internet.

Walsh and deGraffenried said they hope the city’s new service providers will foster development and satisfy the needs of current businesses and residents.

“Many times throughout this process, we wondered if this would really happen, and now it is happening, so it’s kind of exciting,” deGraffenried said.