AT&T picks CH for pilot program
by Briana Webster
Mar 07, 2014 | 1904 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CARBON HILL — Promoting a program that will benefit citizens nationwide with “access to modern communications networks,” AT&T has requested Carbon Hill as one of two cities in America to pilot a new technology endeavor.

Officials and representatives of AT&T spoke with members of the community one-on-one during Thursday’s meeting in the city’s community center. Fred McCallum, president of AT&T Alabama, greeted those in attendance and gave a brief presentation of what the small city can possibly expect within the next few years.

“For about the last 10 years or so, we’ve been working on the landline side of our business to build a new network on top of our older network. The old network is called a TVM network and the new network is called an IP network, which stands for Internet Protocol, and we’ve been working for about 10 years to overlay that network,” McCallum said. “ ... Last week, we made a request with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), and we proposed two markets, what we call wire centers — a Carbon Hill wire center and a wire center in Florida.” 

McCallum continued to explain that both wire centers are very different because of their markets, Carbon Hill being a rural area and the city in Florida being an urban area.

He said they were chosen intentionally because “we wanted to understand working with our customers who are there, what issues we are going to face as we go along the way, what hurdles we are going to have to overcome in order to make this a seamless process for our customers.” 

McCallum reiterated that, as of now, it is only a proposal that has been made to the FCC. In May, AT&T will hear back from the FCC and see what the company’s next step will be in the phasing process. He estimated that the trial will begin in either late 2014 or early 2015 and will continue, through several phases, until late 2016 or even into 2017.

There are two specific groups that AT&T has focused on and want to work with, senior citizens and the disabled, on a national and local level. AT&T is also targeting main values such as universal connectivity, consumer protections, privacy protections, public safety, reliability and competition.

“We are interested in your input. ... I am convinced through experience that if we collaborate and we work with our customers and listen to them, ultimately we’ll all be successful,” McCallum said. “We can put Carbon Hill on the map as a communications standpoint in a way it has not been before.” 

Different residents asked questions pertaining to new towers constructed within close proximity to the city, DSL high-speed Internet service and added charges on their bill. McCallum assured people that if they would leave their name and information, those issues would be looked into.

Others attended the meeting because they were curious about what the new trial program would have to offer the town.

“We wanted to find out what all is going to be available in the future,” said Sandra Sherer, “how we can benefit from it and how we can use it.” 

Several residents circled around a map that displayed the Carbon Hill wire center which outlined the area that will be conducting the trial if approved.

“We have already upgraded the wireless network with the new towers and the LTE service, and you have to hope as you continue to move forward with these networks at a higher speed network, that it will give you opportunities for economic development,” McCallum said. “That is certainly our hope throughout this whole process of what we’re doing with our networks, both with more rural areas and in urban areas, is that the result of putting these newer, faster networks in place would allow businesses to compete more successfully and would allow us, Alabama as a state and Carbon Hill locally, to compete for jobs more effectively.

“So, that is one of the benefits that can come from being a trial city and having the enhancements that we’ve already seen in the wireless network.” 

Three additional meetings have been scheduled for Saturday, March 8, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Carbon Hill’s American Legion Post; Tuesday, March 11, from 4 until 8 p.m. at the community center; and Thursday, March 13, from 4 until 8 p.m. at the community center.

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