Internet upgrade underway in The Hills in Bedminster
A long-running Altice Optimum plan to upgrade Internet service in The Hills housing development has broken ground, according to officials.
Township Committeeman R. Colin Hickey said at the committee's meeting on Monday, April 3, that about half of the 22 homeowners' associations in The Hills that need to sign access contracts with Altice to allow digging have either done so or are about to, but "Altice is not waiting for all 22."
"The big dig starts this week," he said. "Altice fiber is coming to The Hills."
With Hills Village North as the starting point, construction began in the Cortland section earlier that day and is expected to last four to six weeks, Hickey said.
Other scheduled starts include Wynewood on April 24, Wood Duck Pond on May 15, Four Oaks on June 12 and Knollcrest on July 3, he said.
The sections that are not as close to signing agreements are nonetheless exchanging paperwork with Altice, Hickey reported.
"This is an exciting time," he said. "It's a once in a generation upgrade to a network and system that many of our residents rely on on a daily basis."
Altice, formerly known as Cablevision, provides Internet, cable television and phone service in The Hills, while Comcast provides those services in areas outside The Hills.
Hickey said the process started on Feb. 1, 2021, after complaints from Altice customers led the committee to arrange a virtual forum in which an Altice representative was present to respond to concerns.
By the summer of 2021, Altice expressed a willingness to upgrade its fiber coax network to fiber at no cost to residents. But because laying the fiber would involve digging up private roads and landscaping, Altice needed to secure approval from each of the homeowners' associations in The Hills.
In early 2022, Altice sent the associations an agreement with terms to review. In the process, it agreed to cover the costs of restoring roads and landscaping.
Altice representatives proceeded to meet one-on-one with each individual association through the rest of 2022.
Mayor Larry Jacobs and other committee members praised Hickey for pushing Hills residents and their associations - several of which were initially reticent - to engage with Altice and work toward agreements.
"The fact that shovels are in the ground today is a testament to the diligence you applied to this issue," Jacobs said.
Committeewoman Renee Mareski said that as someone who lives in The Hills, she appreciated the upgrade. "It's going to be a great addition to all our homes."
Hickey also provided an update on efforts by Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) to reduce power outages in The Hills.
He said some recent outages were found not to be indicative of systemic problems. An outage last October was caused by a tree falling on a transmission line in Branchburg Township; another outage in January was caused by a transformer fire in The Hills after a squirrel sought to nest there, he said.
The homeowners' association of Wood Duck Pond, which replaced underground laterals at its own expense to address outage issues, later learned that JCP&L was responsible for the laterals and has now been reimbursed by the utility company, he reported.
JCP&L has also identified all transformer circuit boxes that are in poor condition but replacements will be delayed by supply chain shortages until summer, he said.
Jacobs credited Hickey with enabling Wood Duck Pond to get a reimbursement from JCP&L. He said the utility denied responsibility for the laterals until Hickey conducted research and pressed the utility to review its past agreements.
Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.