Residents who have spent months anticipating the arrival of RST Fiber and its promised gigabit-speed Internet service will have to wait a while longer.
RST has halted its work in Wake Forest as the company waits for new private financial investments.
“We can’t outgrow or outspend ourselves,” said Dan Limerick, RST’s chief executive officer.
The Shelby-based company burst onto the scene this spring, pledging to go head-to-head with telecommunications giants in the race to bring a high-speed fiber network to North Carolina customers.
RST officials quickly turned their attention to Wake Forest, where town officials already were looking for ways to boost local Internet speeds for residents and businesses.
For months, Limerick hailed the town as an ideal place for RST to deploy its network, citing the enthusiasm of residents and government officials. RST also hoped that if Wake Forest residents liked their service, they would spread the word to potential customers in Raleigh.
“They will be our best salespeople,” Limerick said at the time.
The company began compiling a list of potential customers, built a fiber conduit from downtown Raleigh to Wake Forest and secured an easement for a downtown Wake Forest technology hub where its fiber optic network would terminate.
RST said service could begin as early as this summer depending on customer interest, but the date kept slipping.
Now, any further plans are on hold.
Limerick said the time and costs of deploying RST’s fiber network across the state were more than anticipated. The Wake Forest project has to take a back seat as the company waits for an influx of money and continues its work elsewhere, including in Charlotte.
He said the company hasn’t abandoned the residents who eagerly welcomed RST’s services.
“We still are coming,” he said.
If the funds come through, the next phase of the project would lay fiber south from Henderson to Wake Forest, to ensure a backup system is in place if the Raleigh connection is ever severed, said Randy Revels, chief technology officer at RST.
“I want to have redundancies in Wake Forest,” he said. “If we got cut between Raleigh and Wake Forest, the customers would not be down.”
The company hasn’t collected any money yet from potential customers.
Joe Freddoso, a broadband consultant and head of the town’s technology task force, said the group has kept its options open when it comes to high-speed Internet. Talks continue with a variety of providers.
“We want to encourage everyone to get involved,” he said.
Telecom provider CenturyLink has deployed gigabit fiber service in some areas of town but does not plan to reach all Wake Forest neighborhoods.
Dan Holt, founder of Triangle Fiber, a private initiative to encourage fiber-to-the-home connectivity, said the recent developments leave Wake Forest in a tough spot.
“We now have fiber all over Wake Forest, both from RST Fiber and from Centurylink,” he said in an email. “The only problem with RST is, the connection isn’t lit, and with Centurylink, they are only focusing their fiber to the home technology on new subdivisions rather than upgrading their existing DSL customers.”
Holt said his group will continue to press for fiber investments.