NEED ASSISTANCE or Have Questions?
662-345-4120

FAQs

Have questions?
We have answers!

Search from our list of frequently asked questions. If you can't find what you're looking for, contact us today by email or by phone at +1 662-456-3037

The Fiber-to-the-Home Project

Background

In 2020, Natchez Trace Electric Power Association created it’s wholly-owned subsidiary, NTSpark LLC. NTEPA was awarded a primary $3.9 million grant and a secondary $417,000 grant by the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff (“MPUS”) to build a fiber to the home (FTTH) network and make high-speed internet services available to all Natchez Trace EPA members in Webster County. The grant benefited nearly 2,300 eligible businesses and households and was completed in 2021.

NTSpark would later announce in 2021 more than $10 million through the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction to expand its gigabit speed-capable broadband service pilot project with the ultimate goal to make FTTH available to 100% of the nearly 12,000 members it serves across its seven-county electric territory.

What is Natchez Trace Electric Association building?

Our electric cooperative is building a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network – the gold standard of communications transmission – over its existing electric distribution infrastructure that will take fiber directly into homes and businesses and deliver reliable, high-speed internet services.

What is the timeframe and scope of the buildout?

This four year FTTH buildout, encompassing over 2,000 miles of fiber, will ultimately reach 100
percent of Natchez Trace EPA members. The buildout will provide access to broadband
benefits for 12,000 rural Mississippi homes and businesses.

Where will the internet service be offered?

The buildout will be completed in phases, and eventually, it will reach all our 12,000 members
in portions of Calhoun, Chickasaw, Clay, Grenada, Pontotoc, Webster, and Yalobusha counties
in north central Mississippi.

Which areas will get fiber first?

Among our considerations, we took into account whether the area was unserved or
underserved, population density, total buildout cost, the number of potential subscribers and
revenue projections in deciding where to start. All of these factors will help determine our
buildout plans.

How do I know if I am in the initial service area?

Our “Fiber Availability” page outlines the zones where our fiber broadband service is currently
available. Each resident in these areas should have received a service application from NT Spark. Please
contact us if you live in an area with service available and need a new form. We will also
provide updates on our Facebook page – NTSpark (https://www.facebook.com/NTSpark)– for
more build updates.

Will my electric bill increase to pay for the FTTH network?

No. Electric rates will not be raised to subsidize the buildout or deployment.

How do I signup for NTSpark?

Click here to see where fiber is currently available.


Each resident in open zone areas should have received a service application from NT Spark.
Please contact us if you live in an area with service available and need a new form.

The Next Steps – Getting Service

How will I get FTTH services through the co-op?

Natchez Trace EPA is creating a subsidiary, NT Spark, which will offer fiber internet and
telephone services to members within Natchez Trace EPA’s service territory. The subsidiary is a
separate company and will be managed separately from the electric cooperative. While
Natchez Trace EPA will manage its electric grid to provide electricity across our service
territory, members will get their broadband services through NT Spark. Members will be billed
separately for their electric service and their broadband service.

What internet packages will be available?

NTSpark offers residential and commercial fiber options that work for every lifestyle and budget. For residential, we have “NT Spark Flash” 100 megabits (Mbps) per second upload and download speeds (symmetrical service) for $59.99/month and “NTSpark Lightning” (1 gigabit) per second upload and download speeds for $79.99/month.

What internet options are there for my business?

Every business is different, so we offer packages that work for your business’s needs and budget.

Select NT Spark Business Basic 100 Mbps for $79.99, NT Spark Business Expanded Basic 1 Gigabit for $99.99 (for small businesses with 1 - 2 phone lines) or Business Premium 1 Gigabit for $149.99 (for larger businesses with more than 2 phone lines) for your business and experience the difference reliable internet can make to the way you work.

Will 2 or 3-year commitments be required?

No. We do not require long-term annual commitments.

Are there data caps with this service?

There are no data caps or bandwidth throttling (intentional slowing or speeding of internet service) with this service.

Will voice and TV service be available immediately?

NT Spark is also offering voice (VoIP) service for $24.99.

What is the earliest date that internet services can be installed in my home?

Internet service installations are well underway! We encourage potential subscribers to
preregister through the portal as early as possible to get on the installation list.

What is involved in the process of building a fiber-to-the-home network?

Construction of a fiber network is a complex process involving numerous contractors and dependent on a number of variables that include length of the circuit, terrain and soils, weather, and other external factors. Most distribution lines are a mix of overhead and underground construction. Construction is divided into six phases for an overhead distribution project.

Step 1: Make Ready Engineering – Two-to-Four-Week Process

The project begins with design of the fiber build. Once the design is set, field engineers determine if modifications to any poles are required in order to support the fiber and the steel strand that accompanies it. Poles may need to be moved to make more space, or they may need to be replaced with stronger or taller poles. During the first phase, inspectors will also “ride out” the build, visiting every location throughout the project area and making notations of changes that may need to be made. During make-ready engineering and assessment, we also make sure every member in the territory is included in the build. This phase can take two to four weeks.

Step 2: Make Ready Construction – Four-to-12-Week Process

The timeline for make ready construction can vary widely, typically from one-to-three months. During this phase, crews make the changes necessary to accommodate fiber. Line crews change poles, move transformers from one side of the pole to another, move wires on the pole, add new anchors to the poles, and perform other work to allow the fiber to be placed during the fiber construction phase.

Step 3: Fiber Construction – Four-to-Eight-Week Process

Fiber crews will begin the process of adding fiber-optic cable and steel strands to pole lines throughout the community. This process can vary whether electric lines are above or below ground. If underground, asphalt and concrete driveways will be bored under and a pedestal may be placed next to a transformer or junction box to allow for a service drop. Fiber construction can take four to eight weeks in the designated zone.

Step 4: Splicing – Three-to-Six-Week Process

Once both the strand and fiber are placed and secured, splicing can begin. Splicing can take three to six weeks for the main lines. In this phase, splicers splice the necessary cables at each end and tap point and mount the splices in enclosures secured to the distribution poles or in pedestals.

Step 5: Service Drop Construction

Service drop construction may be done simultaneously with some of the previously mentioned steps, or it may not be done until after the main line fiber is in place. In this phase, the drop crews extend the fiber from the nearest splice point to the structure receiving service and leave coils of fiber in each location.

Step 6: Drop Splicing

Drop splicing is the next to last step of the process. The splicer connects the last length of fiber at the tap point and mounts a network interface device (NID) at the structure with the final splice inside it. After drop splicing is completed, the network is now ready to be turned over for installation to homes and businesses to start receiving service.

Step 7: Home or Business Installation

Finally, the fiber is connected to a fiber jack inside your home or office, where it’s plugged into the modem we provide! If you pre-register - one of our member relations representatives will contact you to schedule an appointment for an in-home installer to finalize your connection and test the services from your equipment. Once the installation is complete and tested, your service should be ready to go. Welcome to the world of high-speed internet!

What is the installation process?

Once you sign up for service, fiber installation is fairly simple and non-invasive. We pull fiber from our main lines and follow power lines to attach the fiber to your home or business. The fiber will be hung or buried underground. Next, we attach the fiber line to a box near your electric meter where the home/business inside wiring connects with the outside wiring. Finally, the fiber is connected to a fiber jack inside your home or office, where it’s plugged into the modem we provide. In essence, the construction crews pulling and hanging the fiber and taking it to your house’s outside wiring are preparing the network to go live once construction in the area is complete. One of our member relations representatives will contact you to schedule an appointment for an in-home installer to finalize your connection and test the services from your equipment. Once the installation is complete and tested, your service should be ready to go.

Will the construction crews make a mess in my yard?

Fiber construction often involves digging or trenching and our trucks to be in the
neighborhoods. Our contractors are trained to minimize any damage, and should any occur, to
repair before leaving the job. Feel free to call us at 662-345-4120 to share any concerns about
the construction process.

What is involved in the process of building a fiber-to-the-home network?

Construction of a fiber network is a complex process involving numerous contractors and dependent on a number of variables that include length of the circuit, terrain and soils, weather, and other external factors. Most distribution lines are a mix of overhead and underground construction. Construction is divided into six phases for an overhead distribution project.

Step 1: Make Ready Engineering – Two-to-Four-Week Process

The project begins with design of the fiber build. Once the design is set, field engineers determine if modifications to any poles are required in order to support the fiber and the steel strand that accompanies it. Poles may need to be moved to make more space, or they may need to be replaced with stronger or taller poles. During the first phase, inspectors will also “ride out” the build, visiting every location throughout the project area and making notations of changes that may need to be made. During make-ready engineering and assessment, we also make sure every member in the territory is included in the build. This phase can take two to four weeks.

Step 2: Make Ready Construction – Four-to-12-Week Process

The timeline for make ready construction can vary widely, typically from one-to-three months. During this phase, crews make the changes necessary to accommodate fiber. Line crews change poles, move transformers from one side of the pole to another, move wires on the pole, add new anchors to the poles, and perform other work to allow the fiber to be placed during the fiber construction phase.

Step 3: Fiber Construction – Four-to-Eight-Week Process

Fiber crews will begin the process of adding fiber-optic cable and steel strands to pole lines throughout the community. This process can vary whether electric lines are above or below ground. If underground, asphalt and concrete driveways will be bored under and a pedestal may be placed next to a transformer or junction box to allow for a service drop. Fiber construction can take four to eight weeks in the designated zone.

Step 4: Splicing – Three-to-Six-Week Process

Once both the strand and fiber are placed and secured, splicing can begin. Splicing can take three to six weeks for the main lines. In this phase, splicers splice the necessary cables at each end and tap point and mount the splices in enclosures secured to the distribution poles or in pedestals.

Step 5: Service Drop Construction

Service drop construction may be done simultaneously with some of the previously mentioned steps, or it may not be done until after the main line fiber is in place. In this phase, the drop crews extend the fiber from the nearest splice point to the structure receiving service and leave coils of fiber in each location.

Step 6: Drop Splicing

Drop splicing is the next to last step of the process. The splicer connects the last length of fiber at the tap point and mounts a network interface device (NID) at the structure with the final splice inside it. After drop splicing is completed, the network is now ready to be turned over for installation to homes and businesses to start receiving service.

Step 7: Home or Business Installation

Finally, the fiber is connected to a fiber jack inside your home or office, where it’s plugged into the modem we provide! If you pre-register - one of our member relations representatives will contact you to schedule an appointment for an in-home installer to finalize your connection and test the services from your equipment. Once the installation is complete and tested, your service should be ready to go. Welcome to the world of high-speed internet!

Why is my first month’s service bill more expensive than I expected?

NT Spark follows industry-standard practice of issuing a monthly service bill ahead for fixed services. This means you will pay in advance for your service. Your first bill will include two components: It will include the charges for the current month, prorated according to the date your service began. It will also include the full monthly charge for the next month of service. Depending on what day your service began, your first bill may be almost twice your standard monthly payment. After the first bill, you can expect your service charge to be consistent month to month.

The Benefits

Why are you offering broadband service?

Our communities have long suffered from a lack of broadband equality – access to the same speeds and capabilities as those in less rural areas. Broadband availability across our service area will help close the digital divide between those who have access to advanced technology and those who don’t. A few of the many advantages of broadband access are:

  • online teaching capabilities allowing our students to learn from home
  • healthcare benefits such as telemedicine
  • work-from-home interoffice connectivity and videoconferencing capabilities that will help professionals stay in their homes, while being productive
  • quality of life improvements through enhanced communications
  • economic development and growth in rural areas. Access to high-speed internet can raise home prices and attract businesses to communities.

In addition, by connecting our electric substations and offices with fiber, we will create a smart grid with more automation capabilities to better serve our members. Smart grid capabilities – the standard for optimum electric infrastructure – allows our devices to communicate with each other and delivers benefits such as improved power outage response times, better load balancing, more efficient electricity delivery and others.

How will I benefit from fiber internet access?

Our sole reason for offering high-speed internet services is to meet the needs of members like you. You will no longer have to rely on DSL, fixed wireless or satellite internet to stay connected online. You will have reliable cell phone connections, be able to stream high-definition media smoothly and quickly, have the data capacity to download and upload data such as files, photos and videos at super-fast speeds, and have access to the latest technological advancements and applications.

Our FTTH world-class service will be reliable, affordable and backed by your local, trusted co-op. You will be able to run multiple devices – such as cell phones, computers and laptops – simultaneously in your home or business without decreased download and upload speeds. The table below gives you a speed comparison between what you may have now and what’s possible with FTTH:

* Typical DSL / Wireless / Satellite (3 Mbps) Standard internet speed (25 Mbps) FIBER INTERNET
Up to 1000 Mbps (Gigabit)
Download 100 photos 14.7 minutes 1.8 minutes 2.6 seconds
Download HD movie 4.8 hours 34.4 minutes 51.5 seconds
Download 50 Songs 8.2 minutes 1 minute 1.5 seconds
Download 50GB Game 39.8 hours 4.8 hours 7.2 minutes

*Download speeds calculated using the following averages:
Phone Photo – 3.15 MB
HD movie – 6 GB
Song – 3.5 MB
Game – 50 GB

Phone Services

Do I have to sign up for phone service to get high-speed internet?

No, you can sign up for the services individually.

How does the phone service work?

NT Spark’s phone service uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. Calls you make are processed over the public telephone switched network, which results in a higher quality call than traditional VoIP calls.

Can I keep my phone number?

In the majority of cases, yes. We sign agreements with various carriers to “port” phone numbers to the new service.