Island Fiber of Orange Beach, Alabama, is working to get fiber optic internet to homes in the city.

By John Mullen

August 23, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – Residents being hooked up with fiber light-speed internet by homegrown Island Fiber are tickled with the results.

“The internet is faster, more reliable,” Realtor Tucker Shaver said. “If we’ve got a question, we speak to someone locally who speaks mostly English and they are super helpful. If we’ve got questions and we’ve got problems we’re not calling a call center that’s confused. We’ve been thrilled with it so far.”

But rather than just bringing the world to Orange Beach with no buffering, Councilman Jerry Johnson says Mickey Frano’s company is doing much more.

“He’s bringing smiles,” Johnson said. “I was at one residence and there were 13 devices up and running at the same time and never lost any speed.”

During the Aug. 20 regular council meeting the city council voted unanimously to give $350,000 to Island Fiber to hire additional crews and speed up the process to get it beyond the handful of homes currently served. It was also announced at the meeting the city would have a townhall session at the Orange Beach Event Center on Oct. 1.

“The agreement that the city is willing to work with Island Fiber that will help him stand up additional crews in order to build out Orange Beach within the timeframe we are talking about,” Johnson said. “It’s an economic development plan to where he can build out every neighborhood in Orange Beach by December of 2020. Whatever neighborhood you’re in he’s coming eventually.”

The city will also pay Island Fiber $1,000 for the first 1,200 homes hooked up to the service.

Island Fiber’s current plan is to head east from Burkhart on the south side of Canal Road and go all the way to Bear Point. Once there it will turn its attention to Bear Point itself where Franco estimates he can the 1,200 to 1,400 homes and lots done within about 90 days.

“He’s not only going to existing homes,” Johnson said. “If there’s an empty lot there will be a fiber connection there. Whenever it sells people buying it will have internet easily installed to the home. That adds a lot of value not only to the city but it adds value to people living here full time. It’s a great opportunity.”

The additional crews will be deployed along State Route 161 and its adjoining neighborhoods and also on Canal Road west of 161 and the its neighborhoods.

“We’ll also be adding crews to hit Cotton Bayou, Marina Road, Terry Cove and West Oak Ridge,” Franco said. “Also, around that same time when those guys get kicked off, we’ll also be on the west side of Canal Road behind the service road going to Lauder Lane and the neighborhoods behind it. That’s where we are right now.”

There are three packages available with 100 megabytes a second costing $65 a month, 200 MB at $99 a month and 300 MB at $150 a month. Custom packages pulling up to a full gig will also be available.

At the Oct. 1 meeting, Mayor Tony Kennon said the floor will be open for citizens to discuss any topic of concern in the city.

“Transportation, frustration, growth and pretty much anything you want to talk about,” Kennon said.

In the past, state officials were invited in to answer questions from the audience including Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper.

“Don’t know who our guests we will have there but I hope we can have another 1,000-person get together to have a discussion,” Kennon said. “I’m going to see if Director Cooper might come down from ALDOT or our state representatives, too. We’ll have an update from our principals and talk to them with school issues or questions. Pretty much anything and everything to be discussed. Please spread the word to get a crowd there.”

During the regular session, the council also:

  • Approved a liquor license for Sauced, a restaurant going into the old Hogfish Grill location which also housed Lester’s for many years. One of the owners, Brent Sexton, said they are planning a full-service pizza restaurant and have plenty of televisions for sporting events. It will include hand-made crust, house-made cheeses, full menu including house-ground burgers and sandwiches and craft cocktails. They are shooting for a late-September or early-October opening. Sexton and his wife Erica Duff also own Beach House Kitchen and Cocktails in Gulf Shores on West Beach.
  • Passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a professional services agreement with Gunn & Associates and accepting their proposal for electrical engineering services for baseball field lights at the Orange Beach Sportsplex in an amount not to exceed $14,625.
  • Passed a resolution adopting a City of Orange Beach FY2020 Transportation Plan to meet the eligibility requirements of HB2 Rebuild Alabama Gas Tax Funds.

During the work session, the council also discussed:

  • The sole source purchase and installation of additional vertical lane delineators on State Highway 161 in front of McDonald's restaurant.
  • A resolution authorizing the execution of a GOMESA grant agreement with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) to mitigate marine debris and waterborne trash in the amount of about $1.3 million. This grant would fund the program for five years and crews would work year-round. Currently, the city funds the program but only part of the year for the past six years.
  • A resolution authorizing the execution of a task order with Davis Architects to provide professional architectural and engineering services for a new adult fitness center in an amount not to exceed $236,000. The center will be built near the Camp Sunshine building on the recreation complex and be a 24-hour gym for members.
  • A resolution authorizing the execution of a task order with Davis Architects to provide professional architectural and engineering services for baseball/softball field renovations at the Orange Beach Sportsplex in an amount not to exceed $109,500. These improvements will make one of the fields an official college baseball facility and be used by Orange Beach High School.
  • A resolution authorizing the execution of a task order with Davis Architects to provide professional architectural and engineering services for a new field house and practice facility for the Orange Beach High School in an amount not to exceed $356,288.
  • A resolution authorizing a franchise for Gulf Limousine to operate a limousine service within the city limits and police jurisdiction of the City of Orange Beach.
  • Setting a public hearing date of Sept. 17 for Cotton Bayou Cottages to build a 34-cottage development near Cotton’s Restaurant.
  • Setting a public hearing date of Sept. 17 for The Bluffs of Orange Beach, a 10-cottage development planned for an empty lot in front of Walgreens.
  • Setting a public hearing date of Sept. 17 for Robinson Grove just off of Canal Road and Walker Key Boulevard across the street from the Orange Beach Community Center. Developers are planning for 14 cottage lots.
  • A reminder for a public hearing on Sept. 3 for Broken Sound PUD at the corner of Lauder Lane and Pelican Place for final approval of a 44-lot subdivision.
  • A reminder for a public hearing and first reading Sept. 3 for Hammock Dunes, Phase II, an 11-cottage development on the Gulf directly west of Phoenix West.