As expected, AT&T did get underway with the fiber network installation project this morning. The team continues to expect to work on 2 floors per day as the notice indicated. HOWEVER, due to the progress today, they may not get to every unit on day 1 as was hoped and expected. At least for the time being. They will start with the ’01 units and go as far as they can in Unit Number order during business hours. Any units not completed will be worked on day 2 for that floor.
So, for example, any units they did not complete today on the 3rd floor, will be completed tomorrow, Tuesday February 27th.
We will be monitoring progress on Tuesday very closely, and get out a revised notice for coming floors ASAP, so Owners and residents know better what to expect.
ALSO, we’ve received a handful of questions from residents of the 3rd floor, and we anticipate more as the installation continues. We will post an updated Q&A by the end of this week, to help residents on coming floors. PLEASE DON’T HESITATE TO SHARE ANY QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS. They can only help us help you and your neighbors with greater understanding and expectations as the work continues!
Share any questions, feedback or concerns – just e-mail the office.
To begin with, they anticipate completing a floor every 2 days. So, Monday and Tuesday February 26th and 27th, they will be on the 3rd Floor. Wednesday and Thursday, the 28th and March 1st, they will be on the 4th floor. Friday March 2nd and Monday March 5th, they will be on the 5th floor. And so on. They anticipate needing to be in each unit, no more than 30 minutes to complete what needs to be done.
Over the first few weeks, they will be assessing their progress very closely, and may adjust expectations based on how the first few floors go. They expect to provide us with a weekly progress update each Wednesday, and we will communicate any feedback or changes in expectations to residents as necessary.
At some point they expect to add a second crew. At that time, they would be working on 2 floors at once.
Within the next week or so, we will issue a more formal notice by door drop. In the interim, please review the updates below. Under “Original Post” is a detailed explanation of the project, and what to expect when they are on your floor and what they will be doing in each unit.
Let our team know if you have any question, just e-mail us.
We are still waiting to hold the scheduling meeting with AT&T. When this is finally coordinated, we anticipate a two week minimum notice before they start on the 3rd floor and begin working their way up as described below.
Once this happens, we will follow up by further updating this post.
AT&T has advised us they are ready to begin work running the fiber lines up to each floor and into units. We are working on a preliminary calendar now, with a start date and expectations for dates and times they will be on your floors and running fiber lines into individual units.
As of now, the earliest they would begin is Monday January 29th, on the 3rd floor and work their way up from there. If all goes as planned, they expect a day and a half of work per floor, which would put them on the 5th and 6th floors by the end of that week, February 2nd.
This is highly dependent on scheduling a meeting with their team, at which we will hammer out a preliminary calendar to be distributed to the lower floors. We have asked them to work with us to get about 2 weeks notice in advance of entering any units on the individual floors, as they work their way up.
As they begin work the first week, we will closely assess their progress and refine our expectations for timing. But, they have advised it is their goal to be done with every floor within 2 1/2 months. Ultimately, as progressed is assessed, they intend to adjust their labor on site so that the project is finished in that time frame. So a final calendar setting our expectations depends a lot on the assessment of their progress the first week work gets underway.
Once we have the calendar drafted, a notice will be issued and this post will be updated with more information.
The PTCA Board has been working with AT&T for over two years now, to coordinate the installation of a fiber network that at present would bring up to 1 Gig of service capability (upload and download) to each home in the PT community. An improvement to the infrastructure, probably worth somewhere between $1-2 Million, at no expense to Park Tower, except our teams time to coordinate with them (and even for that, AT&T paid the Association $18,000 to help subsidize the labor that will be needed as we escort their workers when they are in the hallways and units). The project is already in the installation phase, with AT&T working in the 1p garage, to bring their main line into the building and installing the hub for the main fiber line that will run through the tower.
This will not change the present bulk cable tv and internet service with RCN. Rather, this will:
The next phase of the project is expected to begin in late January or early February. Their team will start from the 3rd floor and work their way up. The main fiber line will run through the tower with junction points for each hallway, within the storage rooms on each floor. Two lines containing 12 fiber strands apiece will be pulled into the hallways along the seams between the walls and ceilings. (That’s 24 strands of fiber, more than enough for each unit, and extra for the future if needed.) One line will run one direction down the hall, and one will run the other direction.
These lines, about the size of a thin wire or thick piece of dental floss will hug the crack between the walls and ceilings, and join at small junction box above each unit door. Here, at each door, one of the 12 strands will be separated from the line and brought into the units.
Above, is a sample depiction of the fiber line in the hallway, and the junction box. If you you’re thinking ‘huh, I can’t see it’, that’s because it is specifically designed so you can barely see it. At the meeting, the reps also indicated the junction box is actually smaller now, due to recent changes in design; they indicated it will be just a bit bigger than a dental floss container.
From the junction box above each door, a designated strand (about the size of dental floss) will be brought into the unit, where it will be run to a module. You will see a small dot above the door in the unit, where the line comes through. It is very small and can be painted over. From there the fiber is run along cracks and crevices to the module location. Ideally, this module will be located and installed at the nearest outlet in your unit, where your primary media wall is located (where your living room or bedroom TV is). Below is a sample pic of what this will look like:
At the meeting, the AT&T reps indicated their team will be very flexible the day of installation, as to where this module can be located. They are open to trying their best to customize where the line is run to make owners as comfortable as possible with its location. AND, both the fiber strand and the box are designed to be painted over, if you wish, so they can blend in as much as possible.
This box is essentially a central holding point for the fiber strand that will service your home. With this in place, your home will be ‘Fiber Capable’. Nothing would happen, until you decide you want to consider their retail services, or until such time as the fiber network would be utilized for bulk services. (The present bulk contract with RCN is in place until 2019, and at present it is expected AT&T will bid to compete for the TV and/or internet contract.)
If you decide to pursue retail services with AT&T on your own, or should AT&T be awarded a bulk service arrangement in the future, a fiber line would be run from this point to your media outlet location. Again, the dental floss sized line would hug cracks and crevices, up to the media wall where it will be joined with the actual outlet, which will look something like this:
This outlet box, is just a bit bigger than a typical electric outlet. It does need to be plugged in, so ideally will be next to an outlet. Yhe red pointer shows where the fiber strand will come up from the base – and again, where it is painted over it is barely noticeable. This location would then be the hub to provide either retail services if you order them independently, or the bulk service should that ever come to pass.
We know everyone will have questions! As you can imagine, there was a great deal of discussion and Q&A at the meeting. We’ve compiled a list of questions and answers based on the discussion at the meeting, and others we expect based on what’s being done:
“FREE? How is this being done at no cost to Park Tower if there is no promise of services being purchased and with what will likely be little interest in retail services due to the RCN bulk contract in place?” – This improvement to Park Tower’s infrastructure is being funded both by grant dollars still floating around from the stimulus, and by funds required to be set aside by AT&T through an agreement with the federal government when they acquired DirectTV. The agreement stipulated that AT&T would expand their fiber network and lines into a minimum of 12 million homes by 2019. They approached Park Tower as a part of this program, but their reps didn’t mince words – they want to be able to use Park Tower as a reference for other wiring jobs in the City and particularly Edgewater. And they also hope we will be a reference for bulk services in the future should they be awarded a contract.
“Why is Park Tower agreeing to this, if there is no certainty the fiber lines will even be used?” – Well, in the industry some think of the cable lines – “RG6” co-axial cable, shared by as many as 7 to 12 units per line – as turn of the century technology. Like an old turn crank phone. Where fiber is more like the IPhone 1000, quite literally light speed ahead of the cable lines. With the changes in internet capabilities and coming changes in how tv programming will be consumed, the fiber network is future proofing the building. Already, the ‘RG6’ cable limits your choices and severely limits your capabilities for service and internet speed that is presently available in new construction. So, you are retrofitting to have the same capability as you would if Park Tower was being built today.
ALSO – as discussed at the meeting, the AT&T reps cited studies which show fiber capable homes on average have higher property values, in some cases by as much as 8%. This was something the Board researched when this process started, including a study cited by Quicken Loans.
“How long do they expect to be in our home?” – On average, they stated no more than an hour, and that was being conservative. The reps said in typical retrofits similar to Park Tower, they actually average closer to 15 minutes. ALSO, they said they are very sensitive to the fact there can be a huge difference between one condo and the next. Some folks have had major remodeling, some more modest, and others none at all. What you’ve done to your unit, with what materials and where, can impact the time.
“When are they coming exactly?” – At the moment, they hope to begin in the hallways by the 3rd or 4th week of January. They will start on the 3rd floor and work their way up. They expect to complete 1 and 1/2 floors each day. And that would put them on the 55th floor sometime the 2nd or 3rd week of May. HOWEVER:
a. This may change, once they begin. While they’ve done thousands of units in high rises throughout Chicagoland, they acknowledged there is a learning curve with every building. They said in the first few weeks, they will be able to finesse their outlook.
b. They tentatively expect to start on the 3rd floor, and depending on how it goes, they may add a 2nd or 3rd crew, which could significantly accelerate the project to a completion date as early as sometime in April.
c. We will be holding a pre-construction meeting after the New Year, at which they will map out a calendar of the first few weeks with more certain dates and times of where they expect to be and when. Once we have this, it will be distributed to every Unit.
“I have multiple tvs/computers throughout my unit. If we move to a fiber based program, how is service delivered to those devices?” – Some units may be different depending on layouts, but we will answer for the typical unit. At the primary media location in your home now – presumably where your main RCN TIVO box is now – you will have a hardwired router which will deliver wireless to your entire unit. With AT&T you would have a DVR (like the TIVO) wherever you want to put it in your home. It will be accessible wirelessly by any device in your home. Your TV at the main media location will also be hardwired. AND, there is the capability to hardwire any devices you do not want connected by wireless. So, you will have a lot more choice and capability, should a fiber option come to pass.
“Since the fiber line is not embedded in the wall, seems like it could be easily damaged. What happens if a line is cut or damaged and service is lost?” – Fortunately, fiber is pretty easy to repair. Damaged or cut lines can be located quickly and fused back together. And since fiber uses light, they have very simple procedures for identifying locations where a line is damaged.
One more advantage to the lines not being embedded, is they will not have to open walls or get behind outlets to make repairs. They stated outages can be isolated and repaired faster than we are used to with co-axial cable. Instead of days, repairs take hours or less.
“In the picture, it looks like their outlet needs to be plugged in. What if my outlet at the media wall is completely used up?” – Not to be flippant :), but if you get to a point where you would plug this in, you likely won’t have the RCN Tivo anymore. So you will plug it in, wherever the Tivo is now. However, if you do decide to use their retail service and should we not have bulk service, or in the eventuality RCN continued providing cable TV and AT&T provided the bulk internet, WELL, you will need to get an expanded outlet or a power strip!
“Once this is done, can I switch to AT&T and stop paying the RCN charge on my assessment bill?” No. The monthly bulk cable and internet charge is a part of the assessments, you just see it as a separate charge on your statement because it is a flat per unit charge rather than calculated by percentage of ownership. You can choose to have AT&T install their router, and you can buy retail services from them, but this charge will remain on statements at least until the expiration of the present contract which is in place until April of 2019.
“Who is escorting the AT&T workers while they are working in the hallways and units?” – Either a uniformed employee of Park Tower, or a security guard will be present on each floor while work is underway.
“What if I have furniture in the way? Can the workers move it?” – Whether any furniture needs to be moved will have to be determined on a case by case basis. But, as with any other activity, contractors and members of the staff are not supposed to handle or move personal belongings. This is for your protection, the Association’s protection and the employees protection. When they come to your unit, if there is something in the way of the install and if for some reason it can not be moved at that time, they will identify what needs to be moved so we can communicate with you. They can return the next day to complete the install, presumably after the materials are moved. At the meeting, they did indicate there are ways to work with or around built in wall units or large entertainment centers, and that would be determined the day of install on a case by case basis.
“Can we get a floor plan showing where the line would be run in a typical unit?” – We will work on that for distribution with the calendar in January.
“Will TV and Internet Service through fiber cost more than the RCN service we have now?” – We won’t know that, until AT&T provides a bid. We asked, but they are not ready to provide a quote yet. So, we will not know until they respond to an RFP (request for proposal), probably sometime in late 2018 or early 2019.
SIDE NOTE – Even then, the way TV programming is delivered to homes is changing very fast. It may be that to get a package as we have now, will indeed cost more. But in the future, we foresee programming will become more and more “a la carte” where you chose and pay for channels and programming you want, rather than pay for a bundle with hundreds of channels you don’t want and only a few you ever watch. AND going a step further, there may come a time cable TV as we know it ends, and you simply have internet service and subscribe to programming you want independently. So, even in a bulk situation, you would have more choices.
“What if you haven’t answered my question(s)?” – Please, e-mail me. CLICK HERE No question is a stupid question, rather it is important you let us know about any questions or concerns you have so we can address them prior to AT&T knocking on your door!
And – if you have a particularly good question, or one we believe will be helpful for other Owners and Residents, we will update this post so everyone will have access to answers and information!